This article explains the rationale, structure, and activities of a graffiti-reduction campaign in St. Louis Park, MN.
The graffiti-eradication plan started as a "grassroots" campaign that has grown into a sophisticated cooperative effort to remove graffiti from St. Louis Park and neighboring communities. The rationale for the campaign is the recognition that graffiti instills anxiety not only about the presence of gangs but the existence of social disorder and disregard for the property and rights of others. The campaign includes a reporting system, a searchable database, and a Web site. Key features of the campaign are the rapid removal of reported graffiti, the tracking of patterns regarding where graffiti occurs, and information sharing among St. Louis Park residents and neighboring communities. The seeds of the campaign were planted when the St. Louis Park Police Department received a number of complaints from residents about graffiti. Police representatives met with identified stakeholders, including the city's Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments, to request their cooperation in a mandatory reporting effort. Subsequently, the police launched a public education campaign that asked community members to file reports on graffiti and help to remove it. The police also developed partnerships with the local railroad and utility companies so as to ensure their participation in the clean-up efforts. The Public Works Department researched the best ways to clean various surfaces, so information could be provided to assist residents in their clean-up efforts. By the end of the first year of the campaign, 710 incidents of graffiti, some which had existed for years, were identified. Six years later, the number of incidents reported annually has declined to approximately 150, and the effort now encompasses the majority of Hennepin County, the largest county in the State.
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