With anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 spent each year in clean-up, graffiti is serious business for university workers and campus law enforcement – even if the paint in question is one man’s declaration of devotion to his Valentine.
From assertions of undying love to political beliefs and the occasional grout joke in the bathroom, graffiti happens on campus and in Isla Vista “all the time,” University of California Police Dept. spokesman Matt Bowman said.
The taggings around UCSB and I.V. – the most common type of graffiti in these parts – comes in many forms and from a myriad of sources, including students, out-of-towners and youthful taggers from the neighboring communities, Bowman said.
“A variety of types of people feel that they need to do that,” Bowman said. “We saw someone today had professed their love to Maggie in spray paint. This was obviously a Valentine’s thing and not a person who does tagging all the time.”
Bowman said local taggers are often recognized by their style and officers can correlate their work to other instances of vandalism. These trends can help the UCPD determine what type of person vandalized a specific location, he said.
“We can tell if someone is from out of area if we only see graffiti in one or two locations,” Bowman said. “Also when people coming to visit or tour the campus, [they] generally go to the same places, to the UCen for example.”
The consequence of such vandalism varies based on the amount of expected damage. If the damage is under $400, the perpetrators will receive a misdemeanor offense, but causing any more damage is considered a felony. However, Bowman said the challenge lies in actually catching the perpetrators.
“Generally, the way vandalism suspects are caught is that we see them in the act or someone calls in the offense and we respond in time to catch them in the act,” Bowman said.
Measures taken to remove the graffiti include painting over it or power washing it off. Bowman said that graffiti on any of the residence halls is dealt with by the residential maintenance, while Physical Facilities takes care of any vandalism to the academic buildings.
“Here, we’re proud of our institution and a lot of money is spent to make it look nice,” Bowman said.
Physical Facilities Director Jackie Treadway said that painting over graffiti quickly keeps it from “growing,” and Bowman also said that a clean slate is generally the most effective tool to combat vandalism.
Bowman said trick bicyclists and skateboarders grinding on the planters and handrails around campus also cause thousands of dollars of damage. To combat this issue the university has designed areas that are not as skateboarder friendly by affixing wooden benches to the planters and aluminum stubs to make surfaces less smooth.
“This is another reason why university police enforce skateboard and bike regulations as much as we do,” Bowman said. “Thousands of dollars of damage is done every year by those kind of people. … It’s something not considered vandalism in the average person’s eye.”