City officials are not sure why reports of graffiti in Elgin have jumped 40 percent so far this year, although some hope the arrests in recent weeks of three juveniles will cause the spike to subside.
During last week’s City Council meeting, Councilman John Prigge asked if there had been an uptick in graffiti, saying he had noticed more in the past several months than he has seen over the past two years.
Pointing to one incident of graffiti on a retaining wall on Phillips Street, near a Route 19 car dealership, Prigge also questioned whether the city is acting quickly enough to remove the graffiti once it is reported.
“I want to know what it will take to commit to a 24- or 48- or 72-hour removal (of the graffiti) from the time a report is made,” Prigge said, adding that he has reported some graffiti himself and it took almost a week before city crews removed it.
Police Chief Jeff Swoboda told the council surges in graffiti activity often are the responsibility of just one or two individuals. Arrests in this kind of crime, he added, often “are feast or famine.”
“Frequently, increases can be related to one or two very active ‘artists,’ ” City Manager Sean Stegall told the council.
One council member’s suggestion that the term “criminal” might be more appropriate than Stegall’s use of the word artist to describe the vandals brought a few chuckles.
But Stegall said that graffiti in Elgin is indeed up – by 40 percent this year.
This week, Elgin Police Department spokeswoman Susan Olafson said the graffiti does not appear to be contained to a particular neighborhood or area. “We’ve seen an increase throughout the city,” she wrote in response to an inquiry by BocaJump.
“While much of the graffiti we’re seeing is gang-related, some of it isn’t,” she wrote. “Tagging (another term for graffiti) … isn’t necessarily gang-related. It’s considered artwork by the people doing it. However, those doing the tagging are just as territorial.”
She added that the Elgin Police Department continues to investigate actively graffiti-related crimes, even after the arrests of the three juveniles in recent weeks.
When vandals strike
Olafson said if residents notice graffiti, they can report it by calling Elgin’s graffiti hotline at 847-931-5599, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline asks callers for specifics, Olafson said, so city crews can find it.
“Procedurally, we try to respond within 48-hours, however, since there has been such an uptick, we work very hard to remove graffiti within a week,” Olafson wrote.“We get rid of graffiti by power washing it off,” she wrote. “Depending upon where it is we use some chemicals or we’ll sand blast it off. Again, depending upon where it is, we’ll also paint.”