Residents and neighborhood watch groups can help, especially since many graffiti artists operate at night, Boyer said.
"It's a fad. People thinks it's cute. They get their name up, their tag up. They don't have any regard for others' property," Boyer said.
Studies show that the faster graffiti is cleaned up, the less likely it is to show up again, he said. If graffiti is cleaned up within 24 hours, there's a 10 percent chance it will recur, whereas if it is cleaned up after two weeks, there's a 100 percent chance it will happen again, he said.
"I'm anxious to see if our hotline works. We need to let the taggers know that Hagerstown is not a community that they can do business in," Boyer said.
When graffiti is reported over the hotline, city inspectors will contact the property owner to encourage quick cleanup and provide advice, city officials said.
Graffiti on a painted surface usually can be painted over, according to a tip sheet from the city. The city has a list of some local businesses that sell paint and products that remove graffiti.
Power washing may be the best solution when the surface under the graffiti won't be damaged by the force of the spray, according to the tip sheet.
Police Chief Dale Jones said there was a noticeable upsurge in graffiti activity over the past few months.
On Tuesday morning, graffiti was discovered at a downtown business and at South Hagerstown High School. Profanities were spray painted on a trailer in front of the Alternative School and on one of South High's buildings, police said.
The Washington County Board of Education finds graffiti on school property six or eight times a year, said Dennis McGee, director of facilities management.
Board employees use steam cleaners and sand blasters to clean up the graffiti quickly, often the same day it occurs, McGee said.
Graffiti hotline numbers
Graffiti within Hagerstown city limits may be reported by calling the Keep-It-Kleen graffiti hotline at 301-739-8577, ext. KIK or 545.
Citizens observing a graffiti crime may call Hagerstown City Police at 301-739-6000.
Victims of graffiti may call the city police nonemergency number at 301-790-3700. Police also will be notified of graffiti that is reported to the hotline.
For more information, call Hagerstown's Engineering and Inspections Department at 301-739-8577, ext. 125, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.