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Property owners are urged to remove graffiti

May 01, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Property owners who have been the victims of recent graffiti incidents soon could be getting a different message.

The City of Hagerstown wants them to know they should clean up.

John Lestitian, the city's chief code compliance officer, said property owners who fail to clean up graffiti could be fined $200. While the city has sponsored community painting projects in the past, Community Development Director Cindy Blackstock said no one has volunteered to help elderly or disabled residents victimized by the latest spate of vandalism.

"Although it's unfortunate that people are victims of graffiti, it's still incumbent upon the property owners to get that removed," Lestitian said Wednesday.

Blackstock said she would rely on volunteers to help property owners who are unable to clean up the graffiti themselves. Last week, Blackstock said, no one had asked for help.

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Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Ryan Shifflet, who serves with Hagerstown Police Department Detective Andrew Lewis on the Gang Task Force, described graffiti as "a growing problem." A majority of the buildings that recently have been marked display messages from the notorious Bloods gang.

Because graffiti sometimes contains messages for other gang members or warnings, Shifflet said residents whose buildings are vandalized should call police.

When dealing with graffiti, Shifflet said police recommend the four Rs - read, report, record and remove.

"We'd like it be removed as soon as possible basically to send the message that it isn't tolerated," Shifflet said.

In recent weeks, the word, "Bloodz," has been spray painted on buildings throughout Hagerstown. Several buildings still displayed the message Tuesday.

Frank Kretzer, a part-time employee in the pro shop of Hagerstown Greens at Hamilton Run, said the municipal golf course also was vandalized recently. Neighborhood youths "just seem to roam" the area, he said.

"It's not a huge problem. It's more of an annoyance or a nuisance than anything else. But anytime people deface or vandalize something, you just kind of wonder what they're thinking," Kretzer said.

While police have reported seeing increases in instances of graffiti, Lestitian said his office hasn't noticed the upswing. Inspectors, who sometimes spot vandalism as they're going about their rounds, are more concerned about getting rid of graffiti than fining the people who have been victimized by it.

People who have been tagged by the city's code-compliance office to clean graffiti off of their buildings are eligible for coupons for paint at four area hardware stores, Lestitian said.

"I would say the vast majority of people that we contact about graffiti, remove it. They're upset that they've been hit by graffiti, and we share their disgust," Lestitian said.

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