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Anti-graffiti goals make a mark

Federal Way residents may see less graffiti this summer.

One Federal Way resident created a Web site that allows people to report locations in which graffiti has been spotted in Federal Way.

The city also hired a part-time employee to cover up the graffiti this summer.

James Lamb started the Web site federalwaygraffiti.blogspot.com after the Federal Way City Council passed a strict graffiti ordinance in March, he said.

"I like the city, and this is my own little way of giving back," Lamb said.

The site features photographs that Lamb has taken of graffiti spotted in Federal Way. However, Lamb created the site so that other residents may submit photographs or descriptions of where they have seen graffiti as well, he said.

To identify locations where graffiti has been seen, one must e-mail a description or photo of the graffiti to federalwaygraffiti@gmail.com. From there, Lamb will post the photo online.

"The whole idea of doing this is for it to have a beneficial impact on the city," Lamb said.

An interactive map on the Web site signals where graffiti has been spotted and if it has been covered yet. Each graffiti location reported to Lamb is marked on the map.

As of July 5, the site listed 56 locations where graffiti has been seen in the city. Graffiti has been covered up in three of those locations since they were posted on the site.

Lamb has lived in the city since 2006, and goes on walks a few times a week. He figured while he was out walking the streets of the city, he might as well document crime happening there, he said.

Many of the photographs posted on his site show graffiti Lamb has seen while walking, he said. He notices it all over the city, especially on Southwest Campus Drive, he said.

Lamb feels the graffiti is a large enough issue to address, but it is still small enough to do something about, he said.

Lamb is not a city employee, but he does hope the Web site will be of some use to city officials, he said. If necessary, Lamb could use Google Reader to notify city employees, via e-mail, of new graffiti identifying posts on his Web site, he said.

"My hope is (the site) can be a tool for the city," Lamb said.

Stepping up efforts

Whether Lamb's site will prove useful is hard to tell.

Currently, the city's biggest problem is not in locating graffiti, but in finding enough time and manpower to cover it, said Becky Lemke, city code compliance officer.

"The amount of graffiti that is in the city is getting out of hand," Lemke said. "We needed extra help to cover it."

That is why on June 25, the city hired Ken Cisco, 18, as a part-time employee to cover graffiti on city property.

Cisco, a 2007 Todd Beamer High School graduate, has begun covering the graffiti on the city's main thoroughfares, such as Pacific Highway South, South 320th Street, South 348th Street, Dash Point Road and South 312th Street, Lemke said.

Many of the areas being covered are locations in which the city has received complaints about graffiti, Lemke said.

Pacific Highway is one area where Cisco often sees tagging, he said. On July 2 he painted over a wall near the old AMC Theater site, and on July 5, he returned to the area to see taggers had returned and painted over some of his work, he said.

While this frustrates Cisco some, he expects it, he said.

"People aren't going to like the fact that what they are doing is being covered up," he said.

The city was cost conscious in its decision to hire Cisco.

Normally, the city would contract the graffiti cover up work to King County — but paying one person part-time wages is less costly than contracting the work, Lemke said.

Also, paint previously donated by businesses and Seattle for Federal Way's two graffiti paint-out days this past spring is being used to cover the graffiti, Lemke said.

While on the hunt for graffiti, Cisco along with two police recruits are also picking up shopping carts and taking down illegal signs, such as those stapled to telephone poles.

Long-term goals

While one person will not be able to paint out graffiti entirely within the city, it is hoped that Cisco will be able to significantly cut down on how long the graffiti remains in place once created, Lemke said.

As required by the graffiti ordinance, Federal Way residents who have become victims of graffiti must paint over it within 72 hours. City officials felt it was time to set a good example and hold themselves to the same requirements, Lemke said.

The possibility of the graffiti covering job becoming a full-time, permanent position has not been ruled out, Lemke said. However, it is still too early to tell how effective the position will be in eliminating graffiti on a long-term basis, she said.

Cisco usually works five hours a day, four days a week, and paints over approximately 30 to 40 tags per day, he said.

"I can see it being a full-time position for multiple people," Cisco said.

The future of both Lamb's graffiti tracking Web site and the city's efforts to paint over graffiti may be better determined at summer's end.

"I honestly don't think there should be a need for the position that I have," Cisco said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or at (253) 925-5565.

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