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Helena leaders looking at options for addressing downtown graffiti

Helena Walking Mall
Posted at 5:01 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 13:10:56-05

HELENA — Downtown Helena business leaders are expressing concerns about the amount of graffiti they’re seeing, and city leaders are looking at options for addressing the issue.

At an administrative meeting Wednesday, the city commission heard presentations on graffiti from the Helena Police Department and the Helena Business Improvement District.

The BID partnered with the Clean Slate Group, out of Bozeman, which has worked on anti-graffiti efforts in a number of cities. The group performed an audit in Helena, identifying more than 100 instances of tagging around the city.

Micky Zurcher, the BID’s executive director, asked commissioners to consider creating a city ordinance on graffiti, giving the BID authority to respond.

“We see it as an opportunity where we work as a team and partner, so, for example, if Parks is driving down the pedestrian mall and sees a tag, they can reach out to me, and I’ll get it removed,” she said.

During the meeting, commissioners said they supported the city and BID working together on ways to address graffiti downtown, though they said they’ll have to do more thinking about how to deal with the issue in other parts of the city. One obstacle is that the city doesn’t have enough code enforcement officers to respond to all new tags.

HPD Chief Steve Hagen compared several other Montana cities’ graffiti responses. In Great Falls, Billings and Kalispell, city ordinances say a property owner has a duty to remove graffiti within a certain amount of time. Bozeman and Missoula don’t have ordinances, but they set up organized partnerships through which volunteers work on cleaning up graffiti.