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  • Chris Belcher

Combatting San Antonio’s Graffiti Problem

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

San Antonio has a graffiti problem that’s costing taxpayer’s money to fix. The City of San Antonio spends over $1 million per year on graffiti abatement.

There are places San Antonio residents are used to seeing graffiti. The sides of abandoned buildings, light poles, stop signs, and concrete culverts to name a few. They’re also seeing graffiti in our city’s parks.

This graffiti was found near the trail on the Salado Creek Greenway June 14. Photo by: Chris Belcher

San Antonio Code of Ordinances, Article X. – Graffiti defines graffiti as, “any unauthorized inscription, word, letter, figure, symbol or design visible from a public place, public right-of-way or another person's property that is marked, etched, scratched, drawn, painted or made in any manner on any surface of tangible property regardless of its content or nature and regardless of the nature of the material of the structural component or property.”

Graffiti abatement is cleaning up graffiti, painting over it or preventing it in the first place. San Antonio has the Graffiti Abatement Program to guide city departments in their abatement efforts.

“The Graffiti Abatement Program (GAP) is a three-pronged approach – eradication, education and enforcement. Our goal is to abate graffiti as soon as possible - this is the best deterrent. The program removes graffiti, educates residents and youth about its negative effects of graffiti, and helps prevent graffiti through proactive collaborative efforts with law enforcement and the arts community,” said Michael Shannon, Development Services director.

“Graffiti costs Americans billions of dollars each year. It hurts property values, drives away businesses, and sends a negative message about the community. This program helps reverse these harmful impacts and restore our community’s quality of life.”

Graffiti abatement sounds simple, but it can be a complex process. It starts with the large number of parties responsible for graffiti.

“The responsibility for graffiti abatement for the City of San Antonio is the responsibility of six different departments,” said Ximena Copa-Wiggins, Development Services Department, City of San Antonio, “We also partner with other organizations such as the Texas Department of Transportation for graffiti abatement.”

Development Services is one of the six departments responsible for graffiti prevention and clean-up.

“Development Services has a devoted team for graffiti abatement that’s responsible for city rights-of-way, storm water ditches, and select city property,” Copa-Wiggins said.

According to Copa-Wiggins, Development Services has abated 36,715 graffiti sites to date in Fiscal Year 21 (FY21), FY21 is Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021.

San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department is another department responsible for graffiti abatement. According to the Graffiti Abatement Program the Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for parks, greenways, and natural areas.

The other four are the San Antonio Public Library, City Center Development and Operations, Transportation, and Building and Equipment Services. Each of these departments are responsible for its budget expenditures on graffiti abatement and managing work hours for graffiti abatement responses.

The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department has its job cut out for it. According to the Department’s “About Us” page there are over 240 parks, 15,337.59 acres of park land, and more than 150 miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails.

A graffiti artist painted this on a bench in Walker Ranch Historical Park. Photo by: Chris Belcher.

Graffiti can show up anywhere in the areas Parks and Recreation is responsible for maintaining. It can be found in the parks on structures, on natural features and along the trails.

“In FY20, the Parks Department addressed 205 park sites pertaining to graffiti. The sites included facilities, parks, and trail areas,” said Connie Swann, San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.

While graffiti isn’t physically harmful to San Antonians it can create an eyesore in what can be an otherwise pristine environment. It’s hard to enjoy walking along a creek feeling like a part of nature when there’s graffiti painted on the boulders along the creek.

Graffiti can also be offensive at times. Children shouldn’t have to be exposed to curse words or crudely drawn images of body parts while enjoying a park.

The city depends on resident’s reports to find graffiti in such a large area. They’ve established the ‘SAN ANTONIO 311’ mobile app and phone number for residents to report graffiti.

San Antonians can also help by volunteering. They can become a volunteer with San Antonio Parks and Recreation or one of the private organizations affiliated with San Antonio parks such as the San Antonio Parks Foundation. They can also help by adopting a park.


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