Graffiti less visible, but spreading

LAWRENCEVILLE - A concentrated effort to stop graffiti has been a success, officials said, with tags becoming less visible and residents more willing to report problems.

But while the tags take up 24 percent less area than they did last year, graffiti was found at 26 percent more sites, a survey conducted by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful revealed.

"We haven't won the war yet," the organization's director Connie Wiggins said in a presentation to commissioners Tuesday. "It's getting less visible, but we still have a problem. ... We've got great news where the greatest efforts were applied."

A greater police presence and quality of life efforts have decreased the presence of tags in older Gwinnett areas near Norcross and Lilburn.

"We have pride in Gwinnett, and we do take a stand on this," Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Board Chairman Jim Steele said.

But Wiggins said surveyors found a surprising amount of graffiti in eastern Gwinnett, including several sights near the up-scale Mall of Georgia.

"The troubling news is graffiti is spreading," Wiggins said.

There were also drastic increases inside city limits, she pointed out, with Snellville's tags increasing from two to 23, Buford's and Lilburn's amount doubling, Duluth's increasing 50 percent and Lawrenceville's increasing 36 percent.

Wiggins noted that Snellville and Lawrenceville had recently implemented quality of life initiatives similar to the county's program, and some of the tags could be in retaliation for the enforcement. She said Snellville has arrested a juvenile believed to be responsible for 19 of the city's tags.

The survey found 3,366 square feet of tags littering the county in 2007, compared to 37,685 square feet in 2003,

But the problem cost the Gwinnett Department of Transportation $36,000 to replace street signs in 2006, compared to $12,000 the year before. And Wiggins estimated a contract to remove graffiti inmates can't paint over, such as brick walls, would cost $50,000.

To continue the battle on graffiti, Wiggins requested help from the commission to continue educating residents, including establishing reporting capabilities in Spanish, increasing enforcement and evaluating the use of "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design" methods in hot spots.