Athens Forms Task Force To Target Graffiti


Graffiti can be found in just about any city across central Ohio. It can lead to blight and images of crime.

Now, there's a new effort underway to wipe out graffiti in Athens. It's called, T.A.G. which stands for Targeting Area Graffiti.
The effort started last fall under the leadership of retired Athens police captain Dave Williams.  
"Athens is a beautiful town, and it's unsightly when you see graffiti when you come into town," said Williams, who is now a reserve officer for Athens police.
"We see graffiti in the uptown area and also all over town, throughout the neighborhoods," Williams added.
T.A.G. volunteers wear bright green t-shirts as they walk up and down city streets, alleys, and neighborhoods. They're armed with buckets of paint and brushes, and tools they need to chip away at the graffiti. It can range from simple words to violent images.
"I think getting the graffiti cleared off the walls would make our campus more inviting and friendly," says Hadley Smiddy, a sophomore at Ohio University who volunteers on the T.A.G. task force.
"I think our campus is a really safe place, and you can't tell by looking at a wall that's filled with a lot of nonsense and spray paint," says Smiddy, as she paints over graffiti-filled door with industrial grey-colored paint.
City leaders say the effort to clean up tagged public spaces began in 2008, when City Council's Christine Knisely started hearing residents complain about the tagging in their neighborhoods.
"I think it's an issue for quality of life, for people who live here full time, students and year round students," stated Knisely, Athens City Council.
Knisely also says the economic impact of graffiti could be larger than many people realize. She cited an Ohio University alumnus who decided to tell her daughter to attend another college after a visit to campus that was marred by the graffiti.
"This does make an impression and not a positive one," said Knisely. "It is a negative impression to have graffiti on commercial and private buildings."
The T.A.G. task force has to clean up everything from buildings to street signs, light poles and utility boxes. They're proud to say that so far, those areas have stayed graffiti-free.
"Studies have shown that if you remove graffiti within 48 hours after it's been placed on something, there's less of a chance that the taggers will respond back and re-graffiti it," cites Williams.
Athens police say they would like people to report ANY graffiti - no matter how small it may seem. That way, they can track the patterns and hopefully catch the taggers in the act.
Athens Crime Solvers is offering a reward up to $500 to anyone who turns in a tagger. Crime Solvers Anonymous can be contacted at 740-594-3331.