Yakima workers say new graffiti program shows success

Yakima city leaders say they're getting a better fight against graffiti after hiring a full-time worker to focus on it.

Yakima city leaders say they're getting a better fight against graffiti after hiring a full-time worker to focus on it. KIMA learned how the cleanup process has shifted over the past few years.

With every roll of paint, the city of Yakima is taking a stand against graffiti.

"We try to structure it so we can cover the graffiti as quickly as possible and as effectively as possible," said Archie Matthews, the Office of Neighborhood Development Services manager.

The structure recently changed when the city added a new full-time position to oversee the cleanup program in 2015.

"In my opinion, I think that has helped dramatically," said Matthews.

In 2015, they painted over 7,726 graffiti spots in Yakima. That compares to 20,605 locations the year before. Workers say the numbers are going down, but the vandalism is spreading further.

"Several years ago, we had very little complaints way out west in West Valley, but now we see just as many complaints out there as we do here in Southeast Yakima," said Matthews.

It keeps the cleanup crews busy.

"We do a really good job of getting after it right away," said John Zabell, a Yakima Housing Rehabilitation assistant. "Sometimes we don't find it unless somebody tells us it's there, so that's the nice thing about Yak Back."

Yak Back's the online program where people can point out problems that need fixing in the city, such as potholes or street lights. It's only been around a few years, but it's seeing more users. Matthews says graffiti-related problems drive more than 80 percent of the complaints. The city's new graffiti program hire follows up on those complaints. Other city workers and volunteers take care of the graffiti they notice in the city.

"We don't want to leave [graffiti] up," said Zabell. "If it gets left up, it kind of just encourages them to do more."

Everyone from church groups to people in court programs volunteer. Cleanup supplies are paid for with grants and the paint itself is donated, but the city workers are funded by taxpayer dollars.

"The sad thing is, if we could get the kids to understand how much money they cost us as a community, we could have nice pools, we could have nice skate parks, we could have all that if graffiti just suddenly stopped," said Matthews.

You can go here for more information on how to report graffiti or call (509) 575-3550.

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