Apr 30, 2024 - News

Philly plagued by graffiti

Graffiti along I-76 in Philadelphia

Graffiti along I-76 in Philadelphia. Photo: Submitted by a reader

PennDOT spent more than $182,000 removing graffiti from state highways last year, with more than 70% of that going toward removing taggings in and around the Philadelphia region.

Why it matters: Graffiti has been identified as a persistent nuisance and among the quality-of-life issues that Mayor Cherelle Parker is looking to tackle over her term as part of her "safer, cleaner, greener" initiative.

Driving the news: Fresh graffiti regularly crops up across the city, including some made along the I-76 corridor near the Montgomery Drive on-ramp.

  • The city received more than 27,000 complaints about graffiti over the last 16 months, including more than two dozen that listed the "city morgue" as a troubled spot, per 311 data analyzed by Axios.
  • PennDOT tells Axios that it spent over $129,000 removing graffiti in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties last year — an effort that took crews over 1,700 hours, or about 71 days, to complete.
  • Crews typically ramp up cleanup in the summer and will address the graffiti in the I-76 area in the coming months.

The other side: Last year, the city removed graffiti from more than 185,000 properties and street poles, city spokesperson Keisha McCarty-Skelton tells Axios.

  • Philadelphia police tell Axios they've arrested more than 240 people for defacing public property since 2015.
Data: City of Philadelphia; Chart: Axios Visuals

Zoom in: While Philadelphia is considered in some hip-hop circles the birthplace of graffiti, many still view graffiti as acts of vandalism that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.

Yes, but: Philadelphia has considered ways to better incorporate graffiti into the city's social fabric, including a plan to turn Graffiti Pier along the Delaware River into a park and tourist destination.

What they're saying: Mural Arts Philadelphia has been on both sides of the art versus vandalism debate as the organization spent about $50,000 to remove graffiti from more than 50 art projects tagged in 2023, executive director Jane Golden says.

  • "There's this thing about being part of the underground and defacing walls, but there's this upside to doing something really different, and beautiful and inspiring and valued by society," Golden says.

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