Muni has reduced the number of serious graffiti incidents on its system by 55 percent this year, but agency officials concede that the issue of vandalism is still a costly problem that needs greater attention.
Through the first three months of 2011, the agency has tallied 24 major graffiti events — nearly 30 less than the 53 cases recorded at the same time last year. However, those major events — which require police intervention — are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the agency’s overall vandalism problems, Muni transit director John Haley said.
Each year, the agency records about 58,000 various reports of vandalism, a problem that requires $12.5 million annually to address, Haley said.
The agency has made headway by establishing a new graffiti text message line — (415) 710-4455 — that allows passengers to report acts of vandalism in process. Although the line was initially inoperative, the agency is now logging about 30 calls a week on it, Haley said.
Muni is also doing a better job of recording vandalism incidents through its various onboard camera systems, Haley said. However, the agency is pushing for more cameras to capture the exterior of its transit vehicles, which are a prime target for taggers.
The most important tool in the fight against graffiti and vandalism, however, is greater involvement of Muni passengers. Haley said the transit riders need to be more vigilant when witnessing acts of vandalism and immediately report any signs of abuse. Not only is graffiti abatement costly, it affects transit service as well.
“When our vehicles get vandalized we have to take them out of service and spend money to clean them up,” said Haley. “Less vehicles means less service, which affects our on-time performance and reliability. We’re committed to cleaning this problem up, but we need a change in passenger behavior to realize that graffiti is a serious crime.”