A state law passed in 2009 requires cities to remove graffiti from private property rather than forcing property owners to do it.
Last week, the Killeen City Council discussed amending its current graffiti removal law to bring it into compliance.
Applying graffiti to public or private property is illegal and can be punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Removal of the graffiti is a different challenge because the property owners in some cases are victims and, in other cases, create a different problem by refusing to remove the blight from public view.
“You may be thinking, why on earth are we going to offer to clean up someone’s graffiti before we make them clean it up themselves,” said Kathryn Davis, Killeen city attorney. “Well, because the state law says so.”
The city currently budgets $2,500 each year for supplies; however, that number could increase, Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said.
A common method of removing graffiti is painting over it.
“This is basically an unfunded mandate,” Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said. “We don’t have much choice.”
Shine said the city could not estimate an increase in cost for the proposed changes to its graffiti removal procedure.
If the changes are approved, the city soon would have a clear
procedure in place, speeding up the process for removing graffiti.
“The changes would clarify the procedure for how the city would go about notifying property owners about graffiti removal,” Shine said. “It will establish what steps can be taken next.”
Shine said the city has not issued fines to property owners for graffiti removal.
According to city documents, the proposed change also allows the city to put a lien against the property for expenses associated with removing the paint if property owners do not cooperate with the city.
Under the proposed change, the property owner will have seven days to accept the city’s written offer.
After seven days, the owner will have 15 days to remove the graffiti before city staff can enter the property and remove the graffiti.
Graffiti placed on transportation infrastructure, such as bridges, is exempt from the removal because of safety hazards, according to the law.
Graffiti applied with the permission of the owner also is allowed.
Shine said graffiti is considered a nuisance and the changes will align the language of city codes with the city’s policies for abating other nuisances.