Local residents take aim at graffiti problem

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Graffiti is a common problem in the metro. It can make neighborhoods look shabby and if it’s on city-owned property in Kansas City, Mo., it can take money out of your pocket.

Stacey Kenyon took a brush and some paint to cover graffiti on her neighbor's house on Locust Street last week.

"I think it gives off the impression that the people who don't care about the neighborhood have more power than the people who do care about the neighborhood," said Stacey Kenyon.

The house on Locust Street where Kenyon covered graffiti caught fire last year.

Two people died. It's been vacant ever since making, it an easy target for the vandals.

"I can't imagine how hard it is to go back to that house at all and the graffiti just makes it worse," said Kenyon.

Kansas City’s Neighborhoods Department doesn’t have a budget for graffiti removal.  Graffiti is considered a nuisance code violation – and it’s up to the property owner to get rid of it. According to John Baccala, with Kansas City's Neighborhoods Department, "If the inspector finds the same violations still present after ten days, a summons for Housing Court may be issued or in certain circumstances an Administrative Citation will be issued to the property owner (and resident, if applicable)."

But if the graffiti is on city park, boulevard or parkway property, the Parks and Recreation Department spends taxpayer money to clean it up.

"Last year we spent approximately 35,000 to 40,000 dollars," said Louis Cummings, with the KCMO Parks and Recreation Department.

That money took care of about 270 pieces of graffiti. Louis Cummings is the Central District Parks and Rec Superintendent and says his department removed about 50 occurrences so far this year. Since 2011, they’ve made an effort to get rid of it within a day of the complaint.

"It helps from it being added on to," said Cummings. "The quicker we can get it off, the more likely someone is not going to come there and get it again. "

If Cummings suspects the graffiti is gang-related, he calls Kansas City Police Department to document and investigate it. He says the number of instances and the money spent on removing it has decreased in recent years, and he wants it to stay that way, not just on park property but all over Kansas City.

"It's defacing our city," said Cummings. "It's not a good look for our citizens or visitors to our area to see graffiti."

The efforts to combat graffiti go beyond government agencies. The Crossroads Community Association has a Clean + Safe initiative. They remove graffiti and have a surveillance program to catch the culprits.