Sheridan Boulevard is on the frontline of graffiti -- and two city systems for handling it
There's street art and then there's graffiti. One can be beautiful, creative and inspiring; the other can be destructive, ugly and a huge nuisance. But the dividing line is difficult to determine. For proof of that, just head to the front of the graffiti war: Sheridan Boulevard, where you can see how two different cities are fighting this problem. Sheridan borders with both cities from Colfax south to Yale. And if you take a drive along this strip, you'll quickly recognize that graffiti and tagging are an issue here. Look a little closer, though, and you'll notice that the east side of the street is more marked up.
All photos by Nate Hemmert
That's because the two cities have different ways of dealing with graffiti. Both cities have graffiti hotlines -- but who's responsible for cleaning up reported sites varies.
When graffiti is reported in Lakewood, a notice is sent to the property owner ordering that it be removed within five days. If not, "Code Enforcement has several enforcement avenues they can pursue."
In Denver, graffiti removal is part of a city-wide program operated through the Denver Department of Public Works. Residents can simply call 311 to report graffiti and request that it be removed. Although property owners need to fill out an authorization form, they are not responsible: When the reported site is next on the list, the graffiti will be cleaned at the city's expense.
"The distinction is that when you call into Lakewood, they will send out an employee who acts like a policeman and gives you a citation," explains Doug Anderson, a former Lakewood City Council member who's long been interested in the issue. "[It] gives you a certain number of days in which to clean up the graffiti on your property -- if you don't, they'll do it for you and charge you. In Denver, it's a public program. So if you report graffiti, as soon as [the report] reaches the top of the pile, it will be cleaned up."
"Our goal is to remove the reported graffiti within two business days, weather permitting," says Emily Williams, spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Works. "We can't remove graffiti if it is raining or snowing, or when we are experiencing freezing temperatures, though. It's not a crew thing; it's an equipment thing."
It's not always perfect, but it at least gets cleaned or covered in Denver.
Denver also has a year-round Brush Off program, similar to adopt-a-street. Last year, Williams says, volunteers removed graffiti over a 136-block span during the yearly community event.
According to Public Works, there has been an average of more than 1,400 graffiti abatement requests every month in 2013, an increase of over 30 percent from 2012. Even with the large numbers, Denver stands by its turnaround time -- for sites it knows about. "The biggest point that our crews would like to stress is that we need folks to report graffiti vandalism when they see it," Williams adds.
Continue reading for more on the cities' graffiti problems