Graffiti causes challenges for Othello landowners

OTHELLO — Othello Police Chief Dave Rehaume said the gang-related graffiti on an outbuilding facing an alley is an illustration of the problems it causes for property owners.

The multiple tags in different colors, along with the lack of spray paint on the grass, suggest the graffiti has been there a while, he said. In that case, the property owner may not have been aware it was there, he added.

“That’s a landowner frustration,” Rehaume said.

Graffiti is, he said, an indicator of trends among gangs in a community, for better or worse.

“That’s a sign of things to come when you start seeing tagging,” he said.

Conversely, law enforcement officers recently identified what Rehaume called some “prolific taggers,” and incidents have decreased, he said.

As gang activity ebbs and flows, graffiti ebbs and flows with it, he said, and right now gang activity in Othello is trending down.

To discourage graffiti, the city of Othello has an ordinance requiring property owners to remove any instances they find in a timely manner. Property owners are asked to keep it until law enforcement can document it.

“There have been infractions issued by our code officer,” Rehaume said.

If the graffiti is in a spot that’s not frequented, however, it might not be seen right away. In addition, some property owners need help to remove it, or the surface makes removal difficult.

Rehaume cited the example of a natural wood fence.

“Graffiti does a lot of damage to that,” he said.

Plastic slats in a chain link fence can be pressure-washed, but that might not remove all the paint, he said. In that case, Rehaume recommended repositioning the slats.

The OPD can refer people who need help painting over graffiti to the Adams County Juvenile Department, Rehaume said. In some circumstances the ADJD can provide manpower, he said.

Building owners are more security-conscious, he said, and systems are more affordable.

“Technology has really helped,” Rehaume said.

More buildings have security systems with exterior cameras, and homeowners are installing equipment like doorbell cameras. Many property owners are willing to share that information with law enforcement, he said.

Property owners have options when it comes to removing graffiti, he said, and city officials can help them find resources.

“Awareness and information are the first steps to get it off there,” Rehaume said.

Cheryl Schweizer may be reached via email at

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