San Bernardino hopes vibrant artwork deters graffiti, tagging – San Bernardino Sun

San Bernardino workers last year fielded approximately 15 calls a day to remove graffiti somewhere in town, a daily average not including the seven additional times a day city employees themselves reported graffiti.

In all, graffiti removal workers handled more than 8,000 calls in 2021 to cover up some sort of tagging.

Something had to change.

Earlier this year, Operations and Maintenance Manager Ernesto Salinas enlisted the help of a muralist, a former tagger himself, to launch a pilot program intended to deter vandals from tagging highly visible spots along busy thoroughfares by covering them with vibrant murals.

A colorful serape blanket design on a utility box.

A bright linear design on a brick wall.

A Ukrainian flag.

Be it out of respect for an artist’s work or the fact a tagger’s mark will blend in against a busy design, Salinas and his crew have found that murals and bold pieces of art deter graffiti.

“We’re hoping this’ll work,” said Salinas, whose program, if successful, could save the city approximately $2,000 per year in graffiti abatement supplies and labor costs.

A landscaper walks past an angel wings mural at Seccombe Lake Park in San Bernardino on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Already, murals have found homes at Seccombe Lake Park, Arrowhead Avenue and Fourth Street, Second and K streets, and Second and L streets, with more planned downtown and elsewhere. Business owners with storefronts and exteriors that taggers often target have even started commissioning art for their problem areas, Salinas said.

Salinas, who intends to see this pilot program through the year, is in the process of drafting a policy so other artists can submit their designs to city arts commissioners and get to work covering trouble spots.

“We want to prevent as much graffiti from happening as possible,” he said.

In addition to launching the pilot program, San Bernardino has added two graffiti removal workers and now removes graffiti seven days a week.

“One of the things I always mention,” Salinas said, “is we can clean up the city as much as possible, but the weekend happens and everything explodes again.”

Investing in preventing graffiti as much as removing it, Salinas added, is a wise investment.

“We have no illusions, though,” he added. “If it doesn’t work, hey, at least we tried something.”

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