PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – During Tuesday’s community meeting to address the city’s budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said his budget will continue to work on graffiti clean up.

Driving around southeast Portland, a KOIN 6 News crew saw vacant buildings, small businesses, and even homes and fences tagged. 

However, KOIN 6 News learned if you see graffiti, you should report it immediately, and in some cases the city will clean it up for free. 

Cleaning up graffiti in Portland is Robert Barrie’s full-time job.

“I’ve been an Oregonian since 1979 – so, this is my city,” Barrie said. “Keeping the city clean and getting it back to where people want to come to Portland, visit and spend their tourist dollars here – we’re doing the best we can to try and keep up.”

The city contracts with his company, Portland Graffiti Removal, to offer free services to victims of tagging. They prioritize covering up hate or gang speech and service small businesses, small residential complexes and non-profits.

Barrie says, the pandemic led to more vacant properties, explaining “those are a target for graffiti.”

He noted that oftentimes, those owners are out of state, unaware of the vandalism, which is why you should report it to the city as soon as you see it.

“I do believe for the most prolific taggers, we do need to identify them and we do need to hold them accountable,” Wheeler said.

Mayor Wheeler is working with the police chief to reestablish an investigative unit dedicated to arresting people behind the spray paint.

“And then there are community-based interventions that have shown some success in other cities, through community based groups that maybe provide taggers a different legal alternative to tagging private property or public property. And I think we should be open to the possibility of supporting those efforts too,” Wheeler said.

But right now, the mayor’s budget is focused on increasing the number of trucks, crews and boots on the ground to cover up the graffiti. Portland Graffiti Removal is also focused on expanding crews, and is now hiring three full-time employees.

To deter graffiti, the best practice is to clean it up within 48 hours. You may have to repeat that process, but experts say, taggers will give up on a building if their spray paint doesn’t stay up for long.