Burlington sees citywide surge in graffiti during pandemic

Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 4:54 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Have you noticed more graffiti lately in the Queen City? Burlington police tell us there’s about 50% more in the city.

From buildings to parking meters, Burlington is seeing a rise in graffiti.

“It has been in the downtown area on our building but it seems to have gotten worse since the pandemic,” property manager Dan Isabelle said.

Isabelle says the historic Howard Opera House in Burlington has been tagged several times, causing issues because he says whenever they clean the building it causes damage.

“It’s not just cleaning, which is expensive, but it’s doing damage to the building when you are cleaning it. It changes the pores of the brick and it rips out the 140-year-old mortar,” Isabelle explained.

And he is not alone in dealing with defacement. Burlington resident Kevin Lane says he has applied several layers of paint to this electrical box.

“Must have painted maybe a half a dozen times,” Lane said.

Police point to the pandemic as a major factor in the rise in graffiti. They say a lack of foot traffic on the streets and more free time for most people has resulted in graffiti in high and low places.

“There is really a lack of people out on the streets which is a great deterrent,” Burlington Deputy Police Chief Wade Labrecque said.

He says graffiti is a crime.

“Depending on how much damage was done it can be a misdemeanor or a felony,” Labrecque said.

So why has it added up so quickly? Labrecque points to a jump in graffiti that happened during the fall, and he says that normally the police have resources to help fight this issue. But those officers were reassigned after cuts were made to the department by the City Council.

“The sergeant who ran the street crimes unit with three officers and a community affairs officer,” Labrecque said.

When warmer weather arrives, he says the department will do what it can to get resources in place to help clean up.

“But it’s going to take more of the community action and the owners of the properties,” Labrecque said.

He adds it’s not gang-related and it is tough to identify suspects on security cameras.

“It’s not anything that we want to see or we want visitors to see when they come into the city,” he said, “but once again, it comes down to prioritizing the resources.”

I’m told city property usually gets cleaned up by city organizations, but if it’s on private property, it’s up to the property manager to clean up.

Police say if you see someone tagging a building or are a property owner with graffiti on your building, contact them.

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