Starting today, the Ann Arbor Police Department is increasing its efforts to erase graffiti that is considered an art form by some but a delinquent practice by others.

The city’s Community Standards officers will begin stricter enforcement of Ann Arbor’s anti-graffiti ordinance. The enforcement is in response to more graffiti noticed throughout the city.

“In recent months, Ann Arbor has seen an increase in the number of graffiti incidences, which detracts from the aesthetic appeal of our community, can decrease property values and has a negative impact on the sense of safety and security for residents and visitors,” a city of Ann Arbor press release states.

Under the ordinance, which was unanimously passed by the Ann Arbor City Council in 2009, property owners have seven to nine days to remove graffiti from their property after being notified by the city.

The time frame depends on whether the notice was posted at the property or mailed to the property owner. Owners can either physically remove the vandalism or paint over it. If owners do not remove graffiti from their property within the specified time frame, the city can remove the graffiti and charge the cost of removal to the property owner. If the property owner does not pay the city for these charges, the city could add the charges in the owner’s property taxes.

The Community Standards Unit, which is working to ensure residents’ compliance with the graffiti ordinance, works to enforce city ordinances on public health, welfare and safety. Officers enforce parking laws and cite residents for violations that may affect the city’s “quality of life,” such as failing to maintain their lawn or leaving their garbage on the street.

City Council member Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) said the ordinance will ensure that high-traffic areas like downtown will be free of vandalism.

“I was around downtown (yesterday), and when you look, yeah, it is noticeable,” Kunselman said. “You can’t let that get out of control.”

Kunselman said he believes graffiti can be a valid form of public art, but he thinks “tagging” — a vandal’s trademark image or signature — is not included in this definition.

“Certainly, graffiti-style public art has its place, but I think it has to follow some protocols,” Kunselman said.

Referring to the Graffiti Alley on East Liberty Street next to the Michigan Theater, Kunselman noted that much of the vandalism there consists of graffiti that covered up city-sanctioned murals.

AAPD could not be reached for comment on the new ordinance after repeated calls.

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