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Bremerton cracks down on graffiti

The City of Bremerton is stepping up its efforts to get rid of graffiti with a new online reporting system and iPhone application that allows regular folks to pitch in and make a difference.

The new website, www.cleanupbremerton.com, and free iPhone app available for download at the site, allow citizens to make online reports of graffiti as soon as they spot it so that crews can be dispatched to clean it up right away or private property owners can be alerted to the vandalism. An interactive map with photos and notes about graffiti locations and cleanup efforts is also viewable on the new website.

In addition, the city has made portable cleanup kits available to those that request them through Public Works. Included in the kits are paper towels, rubber gloves, bottled water, eye protection and an environmentally friendly solution in the form of Safe Wipes that removes the graffiti. Folks that run out of the cleaning solution can simply go back to Public Works for more wipes.

Longtime Charleston District business owner Robert Parker has played an instrumental role in greatly reducing graffiti throughout Bremerton and developing the new cleanup efforts, website and app.

“It tends to get under your skin,” he said of graffiti in Bremerton. “There were years that I drove by it and never really saw it. It’s one of those things that you can get used to if you’re not careful. But once you start seeing it, you drive down the street and say, ‘There’s another one, theres another one, there’s another one.’ It’s like every time you turned around you saw it.”

Parker has been battling against Bremerton graffiti for more than two years now and said that after a while he “sort of became graffiti central and was getting calls from all kinds of people that I’ve never heard of that wanted to talk about the graffiti issue.”

Things were especially frustrating for Parker in the early days of his efforts.

“People kept coming out and tagging our buildings in the Charleston District,” he said. “It was taking a whole lot of horsepower to clean it up and keep it cleaned up. We’d clean it up on a Tuesday and there would be 10 more tags by Friday.”

Today, though, it’s a totally different story and Parker says it now takes a concerted effort to actually find new graffiti. That’s despite the fact that it wasn’t very long ago that he was able to collect and catalogue over 1,000 photos of different cases of graffiti throughout Bremerton.

Parker also gives a lot of credit to the city council and Mayor Patty Lent for helping him in his efforts.

“It kind of went from being a toxic issue to being something that’s really positive,” he said. “It’s one of the most effective things i’ve seen the council do. They set a goal at the first of the year (last year), continued to track the process and followed it through to completion. It was a complete success.”

Folks that don’t have an iPhone don’t need to worry about getting the city’s new app, Parker noted.

“The iPhone app was just the first one that was approved and we wanted to get it out there as soon as we could, but a Droid app is coming right behind it,” he said.

Parker also said he hopes that other cities and Kitsap County will want to get their own versions of the app to combat graffiti outside the city limits of Bremerton.

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, along with several employees city council members, already have the kits and are using them.

“It’s in the trunk of my car,” Lent said. “I’ve used it about three or four times. If I’m out and about I will certainly pulled over and taken care of a problem.”

Lent noted that the city’s old response to dealing with graffiti was often a 45 day process that required letters to property owners, work orders and other hoops. She said that the new system, relying heavily on the public’s input and help, is much more efficient.

“We save money every day that someone, as a citizen, is untagging or cleaning up graffiti rather than our people having to go out. We still send our people out, but not nearly as often. The sooner that we can remove a tag then it discourages them because it won’t be up long enough for the tagger to get any recognition. It’s hard to find graffiti in the city right now.”

Lent also noted that city employee Dave Buffington from the Information and Technology department was the one that actually created the phone app and website system for reporting graffiti.

“He is a wizard with computers and writing programs,” she said.

Lent says that the city’s new approach is also gaining a lot of attention.

“We’re setting the bar for other cities in the county and cities across the nation,” she said. “It’s important for the pride of the city and the people that live here.”

 

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