Graffiti becomes growing problem in Catasauqua
With more than a few tags showing up on buildings, graffiti might be the next task Catasauqua Borough needs to handle. While some use the analogy “rap is to music as graffiti is to art,” Kimberly Brubaker, president of Catasauqua Main Streets, has her own version.
“There is a difference between graffiti that is street art and tagging,” she said.
Catasauqua has seen a dramatic increase in tagging from stand-alone mailboxes to the sides of buildings. Tagging, according to Brubaker, accelerates urban decay.
“It’s done to damage someone else’s property. It’s not about creating something artistic,” she said. “The best way to combat tagging is to get the graffiti removed quickly, within 24 to 48 hours. If it is left on a building, the vandals assume that no one is concerned, and more vandals add their tags.
We want to give the impression that our town is clean and safe,” she said. “And we all need to stay on top of the problem.”
Now that tagging is here, what pragmatic solutions are there? Painting over graffiti with the original paint color is the simplest solution. Sherwin-Williams has a graffiti-removal solution that contractors rely on. The company donated a couple of cans to Main Streets for its Keep Catasauqua Clean campaign. Brubaker tried it to remove tags from a raw wood fence.
“It removed the tag but bleached the wood. It should work better on other surfaces,” she said.
There is product available that will coat the surface of a mural that, if marked, can be easily removed. Brubaker suggested that existing murals in the borough be preserved and protected with this before they are damaged.
Tags are on almost every mailbox in town. When the tags are not removed, they accumulate more tags. It is the property owner’s responsibility to get rid of the graffiti, but who is responsible for getting rid of the vandals? Isolated areas tend to attract crime. Patrolling on foot may deter or prevent crime. A grass-roots approach would be to organize friends and neighbors to take walks through town on a consistent basis.
Prevention could begin at the high school level. Adding a goal of eliminating tagging might tie students to their community. Main Streets contacted Catasauqua Area School District Superintendent Robert Spengler, who said he is eager to help spread the word about providing student assistance and promoting a community initiative.
The borough has a grant application into Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for improved street lighting. Walkable municipalities do not have as many graffiti problems.
One of the urban management success stories is how Mayor Rudy Giuliani turned around New York City. He handled the big problems but was also relentless in pursuing small infractions. It is a textbook case of effectively managing a city — reminiscent of the old adage “small leaks can sink a big ship.”
How can members of the community contribute? Volunteer! Get involved on a local level. Attend council meetings on the first Monday of every month in the new municipal complex on Front Street.
Every year on the Saturday before Earth Day, the borough has a community cleanup.
This year’s cleanup events are being held April 21.
Catasauqua Main Streets’ street and graffiti cleanup is 9 a.m.-noon. Meet at Blocker’s Coffeehouse for a free cup of coffee and to pick up some supplies.
The annual canal cleanup starts noon at the canal.