WORCESTER — The spate of graffiti that struck many sections of the city over the past week has left property owners and city officials infuriated and hoping those responsible will be caught.
Police have already arrested one man, a 21-year-old Leicester resident, after eight buildings were hit with graffiti in the Park Avenue and Tatnuck Square areas. The arrest occurred Saturday morning. Police Chief Gary J. Gemme said potential suspects in other incidents have also been identified and police continue to investigate.
City Manager Michael V. O’Brien, who is clearly aggravated at this recent rash of vandalism, said the city’s Department of Public Works and Parks, Inspectional Services and police work hard to handle the matter. He hopes, like many of the councilors and property owners, that the courts hold the perpetrators accountable.
“We spend hundreds of thousands on these quality-of-life crimes perpetrated on property and the whole community,” Mr. O’Brien said. “Make no mistake, they are not artists, they are miscreants, malcontents and maladjusted vandals that thumb their noses at all of us. In their warped world, it is their right to spoil our city.
“The message we send must be crystal clear and consistent. We must hold them accountable. There must be real consequences for their illegal actions.”
The city is reporting 150 incidents in December, not including the graffiti in the Tatnuck Square area that occurred Friday night into Saturday morning. City numbers show December with the most reported graffiti this year in the city.
District 2 City Councilor Philip P. Palmieri, whose district was hit hard, said the vandalism’s occurring around the holidays just magnifies the issues tenfold.
“I am certainly outraged at what transpired,” Mr. Palmieri said. “I think this is a quality-of-life issue for the district and the entire city.”
Graffiti have been a persistent problem in the city, leaving residents with an uncomfortable feeling, the councilor said. Mr. Palmieri applauded police for making an arrest.
Danny Nguyen, 21, of 7 North Court, Leicester, was charged with trespassing, willful and malicious destruction of property and carrying a dangerous weapon, a knife, Saturday while police were investigating tagging in the Tatnuck Square area. Another man ran off.
The Police Department has notified patrol officers to check areas known for recent activity. The Crime Analysis Unit also reviewed the recent activity, including sites and times of the incidents. Chief Gemme said detectives are also investigating.
“That arrest occurred because our uniform officers were out and being proactive,” Chief Gemme said. “We get the resources out there and put the investigative resources out there. If we don’t you are going to see neighborhoods deteriorate and we don’t want to see that.”
The Police Department will review the recent rash of graffiti and determine if more resources need to be moved into specific areas.
“It impacts the quality of life in neighborhoods,” Chief Gemme said. “When people go outside they don’t want to see graffiti, that visible sign there is vandalism in their neighborhood. This was unacceptable behavior.”
Steven M. Rothschild spent Sunday morning cleaning the green, silver and black spray paint off his 40 Jackson St. building. His building was one of many hit in his area. The city resident believes those responsible should have their pictures plastered in the newspaper.
“It is aggravating to the city, the citizens and the property owners,” he said.
But Mr. Rothschild is also frustrated with how the city enforces the graffiti ordinance. He was served papers Friday telling him to clean up his property. Private property owners have seven days to clean up graffiti per the ordinance. He believes city officials could call property owners instead of having them served.
“I am not the criminal,” he said. “I didn’t paint or tag my buildings.”
District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera is having ongoing conversations with the city on how the ordinance is enforced. There are good, responsible property owners in the city and there might be a better way to work with them, she said, conceding that some owners ignore their properties.
Graffiti have been an issue in her area since November. Ms. Rivera said her own church on Beacon Street has been hit a couple of times but the cameras did not catch a clear shot of the culprit.
“We take pride in our neighborhood,” she said. “This is our home and it has been very frustrating.”
Of the nearly 900 work orders this year, roughly 60 percent have been on public property. The city cleans those public areas at a cost. The city did not have a price tag for all the cleanup but said thousands of dollars are spent yearly on paint, supplies and chemicals.
Contact Scott J. Croteau at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ScottCroteauTG