Portland takes steps to fight graffiti

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PORTLAND — Rewards and opportunities are among the methods the city is using this summer to combat graffiti.

To eradicate existing graffiti, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said, the city has renewed its partnership with LearningWorks and Portland Downtown for the Graffiti Busters program.

As described at the LearningWorks website, Graffiti Busters are part of the nonprofit’s Service Works initiatives of community service for “young people making amends for non-violent offenses as a positive alternative to juvenile justice system involvement.”

Grondin said the Graffiti Busters, formed last year, removed more than 13,000 square feet of graffiti while answering more than 170 complaints logged on city’s Fix It! Portland web page.

So far this year, Graffiti Busters have removed more than 150 tags, Grondin added.

The city will also renew a 2016 program encouraging art by offering the chance to paint five more utility boxes.

The program, sponsored by the Police Department, NBT Bank, and Port Property Management, will offer $500 stipends to selected artists. Artists must be 18 or older and be based in Maine. Artists are allowed to submit up to three original designs

Applications are now being accepted by the Portland Public Art Committee, with a deadline of Sept. 15. The committee will make its selections by Sept. 30, based on guidelines listed on the application web page.

Portland Downtown will also administer a fund that will reward people whose information leads to the successful prosecution of vandals spraying graffiti. Anyone witnessing someone spraying graffiti is urged to call 911 or 874-8575, but are cautioned not to directly approach a vandal.

Applicants for a reward must submit their name and be willing to testify in court, if needed. More information on the reward program is available from city Neighborhood Prosecutor Rich Bianculli at richb@portlandmaine.gov or 756-8350; and Amy Geren of Portland Downtown at amy@portlandmaine.com or 772-6828.

Bianculli is also available to talk with property owners about graffiti deterrence, Grondin said. Solutions include better exterior lighting and security, but can also entail adding murals or coating walls to prevent tagging.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

South Portland resident Kerrin Parkinson paints a utility box Aug. 5, 2016, in Portland’s Congress Square. City police and local businesses have resumed the program this summer as a way to fight graffiti in the city.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.