A surge of graffiti vandalism has littered downtown buildings and bus shelters in the last two weeks, according to police.
Police captain Luis Yudice said Madison residents have reported new graffiti markings cropping up throughout the city, indicating that graffiti drawings have increased because of the warm weather spell.
Mayor Sue Bauman explained that graffiti vandalism comes in waves and has recently reappeared in Madison.
“It’s really based on who’s around, whether they have been caught recently and whether it has been announced,” Bauman said. “Two years ago, it was really awful.” The graffiti was so prevalent in spring 2001 that Bauman created a 12-member Graffiti Abatement Guidance Team and the police made a concerted effort to crack down on the vandalism.
Yudice said that there have been a few graffiti vandalism arrests recently, but nothing out of the ordinary.
“It isn’t an issue that raises eyebrows, because there is so much of it,” Yudice said.
Bauman said graffiti markings always subside after announcements of recent arrests and charges are publicized. She also said that graffiti is usually made by young people out of school who “mark their territory” or “tag everything in sight” on their way to and from work.
Yudice said the graffiti are not gang symbols, although there are neighborhoods in Madison with gang symbols. He said they are usually initials or symbols representing individuals or organized groups that are not gangs. He would not elaborate on the nature of the groups, but said there are very few gangs in Madison.
“They are different forms of expression,” Yudice said of the graffiti. “They take pride in tagging different places throughout the city.”
The city attempts to remove graffiti on public buildings immediately, but graffiti on private buildings is the property owner’s responsibility to remove. Bauman said a five-year-old city program cleans private-property graffiti for a fee of $100.
City staff use power water-washing, sand or baking-soda blasting, chemical removal or paint to remove the graffiti. Despite the various removal techniques, spray paint might remain faintly visible, called “ghosting.” An example of ghosting remains on the Memorial Library wall across from University Bookstore, where happy and sad faces were spray-painted in blue.
City officials have considered creating an outlet for wall art as part of the Lisa Link Peace Park renovation on State Street. The wall would be publicly owned for the purpose of displaying mural art and graffiti expression.
“It isn’t an issue that raises eyebrows because there is so much of it,” he said.