Vandals have repeatedly left their mark on the Texas State campus in graffiti, which is both illegal and costing the university manpower and money to clean up, officials said.
In recent months the word “look” is being tagged around campus, and the University Police Department is looking to find the individual or individuals responsible.Captain Daniel Benitez said the first case of graffiti was reported in October 2012, and the end of January 2013 had the most recent.
Benitez said UPD takes a photo of the tags and documents them before having workers from the Facilities Department remove the graffiti, which is done as quickly as possible.
Juan Guerra, associate vice president of Facilities, said the department takes a look at the graffiti once UPD finishes its investigation. A crew is then sent to clean or paint over the graffiti, depending on the tag.
Chalk graffiti, for example, is normally cleaned with a water solution, he said. However, the “look” graffiti is paint.
“If it’s paint that’s washable, we water blast it off,” Guerra said. “If it’s something really hard to get off, we might have to paint over it.”
The type of paint used in the graffiti determines the removal process and cost. Guerra said if the paint is washable, it is very inexpensive to clean, costing “just a man-hour or two worth of effort.” He said chalk washes off easily and doesn’t require much more than a water hose.
However, Guerra said paint can take several hours to remove depending on what kind it is and the amount that needs to be cleaned. Facilities responded in 2012 to 94 requests for graffiti removal. The removal costs ranged from $26 to $853, he said.
Guerra said the crew cleans minor graffiti on the ground or in chalk, whereas building maintenance takes care of anything needing to be sandblasted or painted over.
“We take it down as quickly as we find it mainly to discourage others from doing the same thing,” Guerra said.
Benitez said eight different tags have been reported so far. The tags have been reported on the Family and Consumer Science Building, San Jacinto Hall, the Student Recreation Center and more. Additionally, they have been reported at the Cogeneration Power and Chiller Plant, the lower Blanco Parking Garage, the Child Development Center, the Music Building and the Elm Street parking lot.
Benitez said graffiti takes away university resources because workers have to remove the tags in addition to their normal duties. Buying the materials to remove tags adds to the cost, he said.
“It’s just an unnecessary cost to the university,” Benitez said. “We could use (the money) for something else.”
UPD released a message through Crime Stoppers Jan. 24 seeking assistance in “identifying the individual(s) or tagger who uses these symbols and their unique signature mark to destroy State Property.”
Howard Williams, San Marcos police chief, said it is difficult to charge someone with tagging property because seldom does anyone witness the act.
“It takes so little time to walk up to a building, spray something on and walk away,” Williams said.
Williams said the punishment for graffiti depends on the damage done. If enough damage is done “dollarwise,” it could be considered a felony offense.
“Generally speaking, applying graffiti is a Class B misdemeanor,” Williams said. “It’s punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and up to six months in a county jail.”