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Landlord Tips and Techniques • June 1, 2002



By Mark Tarses

Graffiti is big and growing problem for landlords in Berkeley. This city's police force is understaffed, and graffiti taggers do not fear arrest here, as they do elsewhere.

Berkeley juries will usually not convict graffiti taggers. Graffiti tagging is viewed as "street art" and a "victimless crime" by Berkeley juries.  (Berkeley juries will also not convict people caught red-handed lopping the heads off parking meters and stuffing parking meters with slugs, on the grounds that those are "victimless crimes" as well, but I digress.)

If your building is hit by graffiti:

1. Remove or paint over it IMMEDIATELY! By immediately, I mean within 24 hours. Graffiti attracts more graffiti. Taggers have a competitive ethic. If one tagger has his mark on your building, a rival will want to have his mark on as well. Graffito taggers like to see their work and show it off to others. If it's not there when they return, they will move on to another property where the owner doesn't remove graffiti.

2. Keep some fresh paint close on hand that matches exterior surfaces that are easily accessible by graffiti taggers. Water-based paints are the easiest to work with and easiest to clean up afterwards. Keep a can of Kilz or similar sealer on hand as well, in case a graffiti tagger uses paint or ink that bleeds through your cover-up paint.

3. If graffiti is sprayed on enameled metal or other impermeable surface, like terrazzo, furniture finisher and Scotch pads will remove paint and ink. Don't breathe the stuff and wear rubber gloves.

4. Graffiti is usually impossible to remove from brick and stonework, short of sandblasting. You may be able to remove some of the graffiti with a wire brush, but you probably won't get it all off.

If you have exposed brick or masonry walls, consider coating them with clear anti-graffiti coating, available at most paint stores.

If you want to see what anti-graffiti coating looks like before deciding whether to use it or not, go to the Ashby BART station. The concrete retaining walls in the parking lot there are covered with anti-graffiti coating,


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