City takes graffiti battle to web site

INDEPENDENCE - A graffiti education guide has been added to the city of Independence's web site as part of an effort to help stave off the increase in the amount of graffiti vandalism the community ha

INDEPENDENCE - A graffiti education guide has been added to the city of Independence's web site as part of an effort to help stave off the increase in the amount of graffiti vandalism the community has experienced during the past two years.

"It's to keep people aware of the problem," Police Chief Vern Wells said. "We've been having an issue ... this speaks to why people put graffiti on property and how to get it off as quickly as possible."

Visitors can find the guide in the "What's New" section of the city's web site at www.ci.independence.or.us. Wells said a Spanish version of the material will also be posted soon.

Independence Police have responded to a significant number of graffiti incidents during the first three months of 2008 - 81 as of last week. There were 46 cases in 2006 and 103 during 2007.

Monmouth and Independence authorities, collectively, arrested nine youths responsible for more than 30 incidents in January. Independence last received a report of graffiti on March 17.

The online document advises residents on how to report new tags to police - such as including the address, type of property affected, message and material used.

After officers photograph the vandalism, property owners are asked to clean the markings immediately.

Parents and teachers are encouraged to be vigilant of examples of graffiti on notebooks, binders and in bedrooms.

The guide also discerns between different types of graffiti.

"Tagging" is done by attention seekers in highly-stylized handwriting, whereas gang graffiti is done primarily to communicate between different groups, with one gang painting over anothers as a show of disrespect. Wells said the vast majority of vandalism in Independence stems from a rivalry between two gangs.

Wells said the department has taken steps recently to try and quell the problem, such as additional patrols and assigning an officer to a night shift specifically targeting vandals.

He also said that some local citizens have started a Neighborhood Watch and that municipal staff may bring to City Council in the coming weeks a proposed ordinance to prompt parents to take an active role in graffiti prevention.

"We're going to continue to work on this until we resolve it," Wells said.

For more information or to report a tip or suspicious activity: 503-838-1214.

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