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The Off-the-wall Cost Of Graffiti

April 06, 1990|Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich, Elena Brunet, Dallas M. Jackson and Janice L. Jones / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Removing graffiti has become a never-ending, expensive nightmare. Since last July, it has cost the county and various municipalities more than $800,000.

City and county officials are putting a priority on its eradication and are budgeting big tax dollars to accomplish just that. Graffiti, they say, drives down property values, discourages businesses from locating in an area and attracts an undesirable element.

Contrary to the general perception, not all graffiti is gang-related (though some is a form of gang communication and/or territory demarcation). Some of it is crafted by individuals with a message, surfers, the lovelorn, and, in extreme cases, hate groups.

Irrespective of the source, cities are becoming more aggressive about its removal and have either contracted with outside firms for its removal, involved church, civic and community groups to assist in cleanup or have purchased sand- and water-blasting equipment, special trucks and paint in an attempt to stay ahead of the problem. Homeowners and other private citizens, of course, have their own problems, too.

Here is the price tag for the cities and county for fiscal year 1989 to date:

City Removal Cost Anaheim $242,000 Brea 2,700 Buena Park 37,500 Costa Mesa 11,439 Cypress 3,600 Fountain Valley 3,000 Fullerton 55,000 Garden Grove 30,000 Huntington Beach 6,800 Irvine 4,895 Laguna Beach 3,000 Laguna Niguel* 200 La Habra 200 La Palma 10,000 Los Alamitos 200 Newport Beach 700 Orange 19,000 Placentia 18,000 San Clemente 7,304 San Juan Capistrano 20,000 Santa Ana 250,000 Seal Beach 1,200 Stanton 6,100 Tustin 2,500 Villa Park** 500 Westminster 40,000 Yorba Linda 10,000 County of Orange*** 15,000 TOTAL $800,838

*Covers only since incorporation in December 1989 **Contracts with the city of Orange (for $500) to remove graffiti.

***The county covers the cities of Dana Point and Mission Viejo as well as the Santa Ana River flood channel and all unincorporated areas. Figure is for materials only; cleanup crews are drawn from the prison population.

Source: Public works departments of the cities and county

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