Readers Respond to the Graffiti Lining Portland Highways

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Everybody’s an art critic. Especially if your art is covering an interstate highway sign. Last week, WW studied Portland’s seeming inability to wash off or paint over the graffiti that covers buildings, bridges and train yards all over town (“Spray Anything,” Jan. 31). Among our findings: Most of the taggers are just passing through, and washing off a highway sign removes the coating that lets it reflect headlights. Here’s what our readers had to say:

Stephanie Lynn Acevedo, via Facebook: “Some of my best friends were bombers, back in the day, but murals and highway signs should be off-limits.”

sultrysisyphus, via Reddit: “The pandemic fucked us up. One of the things I loved about Portland is how the street artists respected each other’s work and public amenities. Now the little shits are tagging anything and everything.

“To people who don’t think graffiti isn’t a big deal, think about your car’s windshield getting tagged, or your favorite mural being painted over. A tag sign might not seem important, but thousands add up to a lot of unfair hardship on everyone.”

NoPo Resident, via wweek.com: “But, but I thought giving my ID to buy a can of spray paint was going to stop this!”

TheObviousDilemma, via Reddit: “It makes me embarrassed for Portland. Had my Belgian relatives over this month, and they were more shocked about the graffiti than anything else. When I told them the interstate signs have been covered for months, their jaw dropped.

“No better way to get foreigners to declare PDX a shithole like allowing interstate signs to be graffitied over.”

Tom Mcroy, via Facebook: “How did we get here? We put the brakes on society and society went nuts. Concerning graffiti, meh. Concerning potholes? Yes! Get on that.”

oregoner, via wweek.com: “It’s the 21st century. Art that challenges the tenets of capitalism is necessary. The fact that it is making all of you old white guys uncomfortable is a feature, not a bug. The fact that it is free for everyone to view is just another added bonus.

“I travel all over the country for work, and Portland has some of the best street art. This shouldn’t be covered up and complained about, this should be celebrated and featured as part of the artistic soul of the city. Unfortunately, nobody will appreciate it until there’s a B-rate facsimile of graffiti somewhere in a strip mall in Beaverton.”

CRYING OVER SPILT INK

Thank you for your recent article on graffiti that defaces the streets of Portland at every corner. I drove in from Washington on I-5 yesterday and nearly cried over the destruction of this once beautiful city. It looks like one is driving into some Third World country. The beauty is covered in this blatant disregard for others’ property, and nothing seems to be getting done. I’m not sure how much longer I can live here amongst all the crime, homelessness and lack of leadership offered in this city. It’s becoming unbearable. As taxes continue to rise, city services continue to decline. It’s no longer an enjoyable place to live.

Dolly J. Hein, Portland

SCARECROWS ON THE HIGHWAYS

Great reporting on Portland’s graffiti problem.

Given that the Portland Police Bureau’s officer shortage is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, strict enforcement of graffiti vandals doesn’t seem like a viable option. I’ve been wondering lately what could be done, if anything, by nonsworn officers to deter these kinds of crimes. Do you know if it would be legal for officers in training or other PPB staff to use police vehicles with sirens and spotlights (maybe if they were differentiated from official police vehicles) to patrol Portland’s main thoroughfares only as a deterrent? Meaning, these patrollers would never exit the vehicle or confront vandals or criminals. They would simply serve as decoys to keep would-be criminals on their toes, and report crimes via radio. Sworn officer patrols would overlap with the decoys so that vandals would never know if it was an official cop or just a decoy. Random patrols of Alberta, Killingsworth, Mississippi, Williams, Foster-Powell, Division, 82nd, Interstate and others would take like 20 people and 20 vehicles between midnight and 4 am. It would likely pay for itself. I’m sure officials will come up with all kinds of reasons why this is unfeasible, but just thought maybe you’d know of similar initiatives elsewhere.

John P. Smith, Portland

Letters to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: P.O. Box 10770, Portland, OR 97296 Email: [email protected]

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