Detroit mulls graffiti task force as vandalism gets out of control

It will cost $50,000 to remove graffiti from this building in southwest Detroit.
It will cost $50,000 to remove graffiti from this building in southwest Detroit.
The historic CPA building was vandalized.
The historic CPA building was vandalized.

At a devastating clip, a new brand of graffiti vandals is hitting Detroit’s small businesses, historic and occupied buildings, freeway signs, church sanctuaries, houses and cars.

After years of lax enforcement, the city is preparing to fight back.

Police Chief James Craig will hear a proposal this week to create a task force of up to four officers solely dedicated to cracking down on the proliferation of graffiti, which is driving down property values, discouraging investment and costing building owners thousands of dollars apiece.

“I’m meeting with the chief on Tuesday to show him where the funding is and see if he can free up some officers,”  Detroit Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown to us.

“I  have never seen it as bad as it has become in downtown and the neighborhoods.”

Packard policeThe meeting comes two months after our examination of some of the city’s worst graffiti vandals, who often brag on social media about the lack of enforcement.

Mayor Mike Duggan, who cracked down on graffiti when he was the Wayne County prosecutor, also met with authorities to discuss a plan.

The cost to remove graffiti is often so steep that investors usually don’t bother.

Graffiti vandals caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to a historically significant building in southwest Detroit, hindering renovation plans for two nonprofits, said Kari Smith, project manager of Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, which revitalizes areas of the city.

The 91-year-old brick building at 2026 Lawndale was originally a church before becoming a Masonic Temple and then a Moose Lodge.

“It’s hard for investors to see the value of a space if there is graffiti all over it,” Smith said.

graffiti FTMDEmergency Manager Kevyn Orr also is paying attention.

“I think the fact that Gary Brown and the Mayor met with the chief about this issue is a good indication that the EM is concerned about addressing this issue and he believes the chief is trying to find a way to make such a task force happen,” EM spokesman Bill Nowling said.

Richard Bennett, who owns an art studio in the Cass Corridor, said a task force can’t come soon enough. His building gets hammered with graffiti.

“As soon as I paint over it, the graffiti comes back in a few days,” Bennett said.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Thee1tooth

    Those damn young people with their rap music and paint are ruining my life. Get off my lawn! *shakes fist.

  • Gary

    Vandalism, tons of murders, lots of robberies, lots of rapists running loose. Is it all worth it for a cheap house?

  • What else can you expect when you start calling building defacing vandals “street artists”. And then even going so far as paying them for their “art” and having them give lectures at colleges. What could possibly go wrong?

    • Dust Buster

      the same people would like to call dope slingers un-credentialed pharmacists

    • B_audit_youcanB

      I know.. Like that time that Michelangelo painted the Sisteen Chapel. And when some asshole carved out the US presidents in a mountain. Damn Terrorists! We need to get them out before “home values” drop in Detroit. Screw it… That’s why we have the suburbs!

  • Billy Blake

    Wonder why it cost so much to remove graffiti. What’s involved sandblasting,paint remover I don’t know I guess I will just try and google it and find out why.

  • Johnathan

    Its interesting that you’re trying to draw attention to graffiti when your blog is supposedly a “muckraker.” Yet, in your scheme to out corruption, your energy is directed at graffiti writers. It’s laughable really. White guy moves to Detroit and ignores the real problems. Like how 2 families own more then half the city? Billionaires being billionaires. *shrugs shoulders and continues to graffit*

    • Willy

      Which two families “own more than half the city”? I call BS on that one.

      I think it’s laughable that someone is so stupid that they operate under the assumption that pursuing more than 1 story at a time is inappropriate.

    • frankthemurph

      So because there are big problems let’s just ignore all the others? A lot of people find it a big problem that the whole city looks like shit because a handful of suburban kids with little talent use the city as their canvas.

      • Dust Buster

        i know and those urban kids that did that performance art piece on steve utash. if they opened more acting schools and places like kronk gym. the restless youth have no outlets for their art and it needs to be channeled into a positive movement.

        if they had places to paint, practice their martial arts performances in a structured manner we all benefit. if we could just harness the energy of these performers the wealthy donations would roll in. much of this art, like the utash performance is a rich tapestry of dynamics in motion.

        its so easy to label as something bad but labels are for jars. lets get these wayward youth and the developmentally stunted late 20 to early 30’s folks to come together and form a community that will be embraced rather than shunned.

        does anyone appreciate the genius and untapped potential of these poor mans michelangelos or bruce lee in our midst? i say the entire city needs to be a canvas and the streets need to be one giant mma cage.

    • Dust Buster

      dont take it personal but i hope you slip and fall or maybe get a nice gang whoppin from some locals that dont like you spraying your acrylic diarrhea on other peoples property

  • bebow

    First, a carjacking crackdown, and now this! Why not just enforce the law, and call it all good? Would that be too complicated?

    • Billy Blake

      Right On!!!!!

    • Dust Buster

      the msp are trying that on belle isle and the usual misfits are squawking about it. i mean what right does the msp have to start arresting folks that have 3 warrants? a study commissioned by the dr cushingberry/mlk driving rights commission found that 95% of the city council prefers the detroit police catch and release program.

  • Johnathan

    Just paint freeways.

  • Jessica McCarthy

    That very first picture? On the altar. That was for a music video that was a huge production for a well known group. I’m betting the production company pulled permits for it (especially since there are temp construction pieces remaining like handrails on staircases which would be required by the city) I’d like to know if the city gave permission because that Nychos on the wall was a job that person was hired to do.

    • Jessica McCarthy

      Sorry this comment was meant for the church article!

    • Guest

      Don’t let facts get in the way of pictures that can rile up the masses. That’s Muckraking.

  • Willy

    Yeah, a task force with aluminum baseball bat wielding enforcers breaking their arms sounds just great!