Before the Spring Branch Management District launched its graffiti abatement program in May 2007, the district was plagued by vandalism. “It was unbelievable. There was graffiti everywhere you could think of,” recalled local business owner Rino Cassinelli.
Cassinelli, who serves on SBMD’s board of directors and chairs the public safety committee, helped found the graffiti abatement program. In the first eight months, 523 graffiti sites were cleaned up, including 263 on public property, 176 on business property, 40 on residential property, and 44 on dumpsters. Over a ten-year period, more than 8,000 sites have been abated, including 981 from January to November 2016.
Before and after pictures taken by clean-up crews throughout the district show fences, utility boxes, doorways, street signs, and light poles scrawled over with spray paint—and then cleaned up. The goal is rapid cleaning, so that future vandals are discouraged. “If we remove the graffiti quickly, the taggers don’t get the satisfaction of having it seen,” Cassinelli noted.
But cleaning up the graffiti isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s also a matter of public safety. Gangs tag buildings to claim territory, and the presence of graffiti indicates an unsafe environment. “Without it being abated, taggers will just go at it,” Cassinelli said. “It’s like if one person dumps their trash in a parking lot, then other people will dump their trash there.”
In addition to removing graffiti, SBMD also removes the unsightly and unauthorized flyers stuck to utility poles around the district known as “bandit signs.” “What it does is tell the community that we care,” Cassinelli said. “Graffiti abatement and removing bandit signs helps create a more cohesive community. In other places, graffiti is an art form, but in our area it’s more of a nuisance.”
In some ways, the graffiti abatement program has become a victim of its own success. Cassinelli said he frequently has local residents ask him why an abatement program is necessary, given that there’s so little graffiti now. “If you talk to people here, they’ll say, ‘there’s no graffiti in Spring Branch.’ Well, yeah, there’s no graffiti because we removed it all. It’s like working out—if you stop doing it, you’re going to gain the weight back. If we stopped doing graffiti abatement, it’s going to come back with a vengeance.”
To report graffiti, visit sbmd.org and click “Submit an Issue.”
Spring Branch Management District. 9610 Long Point, Suite 100. 713-595-1219. sbmd.org