PROVO — The City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night putting the task of wiping out all graffiti squarely on the city's shoulders.

But some council members call the measure overreaching and unnecessary, pointing to recent police reports that say the number of graffiti cases has dropped significantly.

"Without this ordinance, we have seen graffiti cut in half over prior years," said Councilman Steve Turley. "And the steep decline gives me pause when it comes to creating a law that diverts resources into generating reports, creating education classes instead of doing what we're doing now, which is stopping crime."

In a 4-2 decision, council members approved a graffiti-abatement ordinance they've mulled over, hashed and rehashed since early spring. Under the measure, Provo is responsible for establishing procedures to remove at least 95 percent of graffiti within 48 hours of receiving the report, pending consent from the property owner. The city is also required to create education programs on the detrimental effects of graffiti and submit quarterly reports on the number of reported graffiti incidents, cost of removal and education efforts.

Councilwoman Cindy Richards did not return requests for comment Wednesday night, but in previous meetings she's said the ordinance would work well to discourage would-be graffiti artists and taggers because their work won't be on display long enough for people to see.

"You send a message that this is not tolerated in our community," she said.

Turley, who cast one of the dissenting votes, said the ordinance's wording has him riled, especially a paragraph forbidding any person from possessing a graffiti implement with the intent of tagging while near any public park or within 50 feet of bridges or underpasses. By that definition, he said, a boy could be arrested for carrying a pen across a bridge because "intent" is hard to define.

Turley also said he isn't in favor of a plan to appropriate city funding to pay for up to five graffiti cleanups per private parcel per year. He said that strategy absolves neighborhoods of their responsibility to maintain their communities.

Councilwoman Midge Johnson, who cast the other "nay" vote, said she also thinks the ordinance unnecessarily diverts city resources to address a problem that police already have a handle on.

"We are in dire times," Johnson said. "I don't know that we need that kind of imposition put upon the city."

Johnson and Turley don't want to be mistaken — they want to see graffiti incidents curbed. But they think this ordinance is overkill.

"I just don't think we need an ordinance every time we turn around," Johnson said.


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