by City of Portland Crime Prevention Program
Imagine waking up to find swastikas or other hate graffiti painted on fences, sidewalks, cars and other property in your neighborhood. What would you do if it happened in your community? A number of community members have been rattled after seeing this happen in their neighborhoods. To restore balance in their neighborhood, they have worked with the city and other neighbors to remove those disturbing images.
According to Juliette Muracchioli, the City of Portland’s Graffiti Abatement Program (GAP) Coordinator, there has been a marked increase in hate graffiti since the election. From November 2016 to mid-March 2017, there have been 44 reports of swastikas (25) and hate messages directed toward women (16) and the LGBTQ community (3). There have been more incidents reported in April such as graffiti found on a Christian church and school in Northeast Portland.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Some hate graffiti is overt and therefore it is clear what is being communicated. In other cases, the symbols used may represent white supremacy or other racist signs. Although a majority of graffiti is not hate-related, if you suspect that it is, you can check out the Anti-Defamation League website to view photos of hate symbols: www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols.
The City of Portland removes graffiti on its properties and in some cases private property if it meets the criteria. There can be delays in removal due to the backlog of requests. Despite what is in the queue, hate graffiti is prioritized. Muracchioli states, “If we see a hate graffiti report, we send out contractors to take care of it immediately, typically the same day.”
If you see hate graffiti in your Portland neighborhood, here are some things you can do:
- If graffiti is painted on your property during the weekend, Muracchioli advises residents to take a photo, report the incident to the police (non-emergency number at 503-823-3333 or 9-1-1 if it is a crime in progress) and remove it.
- If it is on City of Portland public property, she also advises residents to:
- Call the police non-emergency number. Even though it is not on your property, hate graffiti warrants a response.
- Email a photo, description, the location and removal status of the graffiti (let them know if someone is removing it). In the subject line write Hate Graffiti and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. For non-hate graffiti incidents, use the PDX Reporter smartphone app.
- Cover up the graffiti, where possible, if the incident happens during the weekend when GAP staff is not available for cleanup. For example, you can cover up graffiti with a piece of paper until it can be removed. Please remember to take a photo first. Do not paint over any public art as it requires a special cleaning process.
You can have a positive impact in your neighborhood by volunteering to clean up graffiti in Portland. Visit GAP’s website for more information at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/graffiti. Working with your neighbors not only helps build community but also resiliency in the face of adversity.
The recent incidents of hate graffiti in our community are disturbing. Reporting and removing it as soon as possible is necessary to restore the community’s peace of mind. As a community, we can work together against hate.