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Graffiti cleanup in Tempe slowed down due to city staff, supply shortages

A 2021 survey from the City of Tempe says that for every 4 miles, there is an average of 8 graffiti tags.

TEMPE, Ariz. — You don't have to go too far to see the graffiti tagging in Tempe. The tags can be seen on buildings, covering trashcans and even backyard fences.

"I don't think it is ever going to go away," Phil Amorosi said.

Amorosi, who lives in the Hudson Manor neighborhood, says the area is well-known to have this problem.

"You can see wall-to-wall graffiti and tagging," he said talking about one of the nearby alleyways. "It doesn't look good for the rest of the neighborhood and people to do their morning walks."

He knows of neighbors who have called the City of Tempe in the past to clean up the mess. "They do come out and clean it up as soon as possible," Amorosi said. 

However, he says the problem got worse during the pandemic.

The city's graffiti removal program was formed to help combat the issue. But a 2021 survey from the city reported 431 graffiti tags, up 69 from 2019.

The survey also reports that for every 4 miles in Tempe, there are an average of 8 tags. This is also up from 2019, which saw just over one per every four miles.

Isaac Chavira the Transportation Maintenance Manager with the city says the reason why the situation grew out of hand was due to the pandemic.

“Obviously, that wasn't good for us, doesn't look good on us," Chavira said. "We play the cards that we're dealt.”

Two of the biggest challenges during the pandemic were staffing and supply shortages, which led them to fall behind on the cleanup.

But now Chavira says they are back to being fully staffed and able to do daily clean-ups once again.

“As of today, [we] currently beaten the 24 to 48-hour response time," he said.

The 2022 survey is expected to be released in the next few months Chavira says, anticipating the numbers will be better.

Data provided to 12News from city officials shows that in 2021 the survey cost $67,275, including salaries, supplies, and maintenance costs. In 2019, it cost $80,495. 

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