EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- You’ve seen it popping up all over our area. Now, graffiti vandals are attacking the city of Eau Claire with their illegal and sometimes inappropriate artwork.
WEAU 13 News spoke with the city’s street maintenance manager about the graffiti problem that’s ballooned over the past year.
“Probably since the end of August there has been an increase in the amount of graffiti, especially on our traffic signs,” said Eau Claire Street Maintenance Manager Steve Thompson.
Thompson said bridges, parks and tunnels have been targets of graffiti artists looking to leave their vandalous mark on the city.
Officer Jesse Henning of the Eau Claire Police Department said over the past year the department has received 143 reports of the colorful crime.
Henning said that’s nearly double the number of reports in 2010.
Since graffiti vandals often leave the same symbol or “tag”, Henning believes the markings are being drawn by serial artists.
“Down on the Water Street area there has been basically the same message, same style,” Thompson said.
Thompson said cleaning up the graffiti has taken up more than 150 hours so far this year.
He said that’s precious time city employees could have used on other projects.
“When we get into the tunnels and under bridges, we try to paint over that. Some of the cases we have to pressure wash it and sand blast it off,”
The street maintenance manager said the city uses a special chemical to get paint off of signs, but sometimes they have to be replaced.
“We try to minimize that expense because the cheapest sign we have is $33 without labor,” Thompson said.
The Eau Claire Police Dept. said it has several suspects on more than 20 graffiti cases.
It warns graffiti is a misdemeanor that can bring fines and jail time.
“Some of it is very graphic and it needs to be cleaned up right away. Hopefully the people who are doing it get the hint that we're going to keep cleaning it up and it's not worth their time to put it up,” Thompson said.
Henning said officers have been increasing patrols in targeted areas.
If you have any information about graffiti crimes, call Eau Claire Police at (715) 839-4972.