MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis has received more than 3,700 reports of graffiti so far this year — twice as many as the same time frame back in 2019.

Dave Aeikens, public affairs coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s metro division, says the department painted over or removed more than 2,500 tags in the Twin Cities says from 2018 to 2020, giving priority to vulgar, racist or offensive displays.

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“We tracked it back three years. It’s cost us about $100,000 in paint,” Aeikens said.

Just like St. Paul, the Minneapolis program is report-based, so someone has to call 311 to report it for someone to clean it up, and that endeavor isn’t cheap.

The City of Minneapolis says its 2021 budget to handle the graffiti is $691,444. Private property owners in the Twin Cities have to cover the costs of removal.

In St. Paul, graffiti was consistently one of the top ten complaints in 2020, but it was eighth behind things like tall grass and parking.

And if it appears to be art or a mural that’s not offensive, the city says property owners can decide if they want to keep it up.

(credit: CBS)

Below is information on reporting graffiti from the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and from MnDOT:

Reporting In Minneapolis:

Contact Minneapolis 311 by phone, email, an online form, or through the Open311 app.

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The Service Level Agreement (SLA) for reported graffiti is 20 working days. In 2020, 80% of graffiti cases were resolved within the SLA. In 2021, the average for the first half of the year is 77%.

Process: Solid Waste and Recycling’s Graffiti Enforcement and Abatement program is report based, meaning graffiti must be reported to Minneapolis 311 in order for crews to respond. All reported graffiti is verified. Verification includes confirming the location is accurate, and documenting the vandalism with photographs. Verification is followed with abatement for graffiti on public property, in most cases. When the graffiti is on private property, verification is followed with notification to the responsible party. In most cases, if the responsible party does not abate the graffiti themselves, the City will abate the graffiti for them, and the responsible party will pay the cost of the abatement.

Reporting In St. Paul:

Graffiti reports are taken by the City’s Information and Complaint line (or Call Center). Customers may call 651-266-8989 or visit the City website to report a complaint.

Process: Once a complaint is entered, a Code Inspector goes out to inspect the property, verify the painting or graffiti is a violation, at the location cited, and take photo(s). The City follows up with a letter to the property owner/responsible party, notifying them of graffiti on their property. They may remove it themselves as soon as possible (and are given a date by which they need to act). The City also offers to assist with graffiti removal by allowing owners to sign a waiver and consent form to remove the graffiti.

If the graffiti appears to be art or a mural and the owner thinks it is acceptable, it may not need to be removed — provided the content is not advertising nor hate speech or otherwise offensive.

Reporting To MnDOT:

If people see graffiti, they can report it to MNDOT online.

Process: In metro, there is one crew that does graffiti clean-up and traffic control for bridge and lighting inspections. The traffic control work comes first and when they are not busy doing that work, they do graffiti cleanup. They try to get to at least one area per day. Vulgar, hurtful and racist graffiti does get priority clean-up. Once it is reported, MNDOT said it tries to get those things cleaned up/painted over right away.

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When graffiti occurs on a construction site, such as I-35W@94, the contractor is responsible for removing it from any unfinished bridge, noise or retaining wall.

Erin Hassanzadeh