RENO — Sparks and and the surrounding region’s taggers may become more emboldened by Washoe County’s decision to eliminate graffiti investigations by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Michael Haley is concerned the distracting markings and damage to personal property may only increase as a result.
Haley Friday announced he has been forced to immediately eliminate graffiti investigations conducted by his office, something his officer specialists have focused on diligently throughout the recent years, creating special programs to clean up the county.
Haley said that current graffiti abatement efforts using inmate and community service work crews would continue.
“When funding was available for enforcement, education and abatement, graffiti decreased, Haley said. “But when funding ceases, the offending vandals will claim victory because we are no longer able to investigate, educate or abate graffiti vandalism in Washoe County.
“This is an extremely difficult decision to make after seeing the improvement in our region, but I was given no choice under the Board’s current budget mandate.”
Citing budget cuts’ County Commissioners voted to dispose of the sheriff’s program.
“This action is counterintuitive to the philosophy of my office and staff and was made only after careful analysis of the impact of the Board’s reductions on our operations,” Haley said.
To help meet the latest reductions, a sheriff’s support specialist, who had been dedicated full-time to documenting graffiti incidents and violators will be reassigned. A deputy sheriff who was dedicated to full-time investigation and enforcement of graffiti reports will also be reassigned to the patrol division.
Residents with concerns are encouraged to contact their County Commissioner or the Washoe County Manager’s Office.
According to the sheriff’s office, graffiti had increased significantly in the county in recent years. The Reno Direct Graffiti hotline receives an average of 450 calls per month to clean up “tagging around the City of Reno and the county jurisdiction. Graffiti is considered a crime and should be reported.
The Graffiti Task Force had removed over 3,500 incidences since February 2006 when first put into action. The team worked an average of seven days a week to clean up tagging incidents, some free of charge
Graffiti is mainly done by gang members to promote gang associations or communicate, mark territory, intimidate neighborhoods or recruit new members. It sends messages that the area is unsafe and can cause harm for residents of certain areas. It also promotes interring, loitering and more graffiti. It may also increase other crimes and acts of violence. Property sales slow and values decline.
Graffiti costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove or cover up each year.