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Fewer worried about graffiti, once a top WVC concern,

Published July 27, 2011 11:40 am

Survey findings • Crime, traffic and gangs are more pressing concerns to residents.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Graffiti has long been an issue in West Valley City, but residents here no longer consider it one of the community's most pressing problems, a new survey shows.

Make no mistake: The spray-painting of homes and businesses remains one of the top complaints for code-enforcement officers, along with unkempt and weedy yards.

But in a recent survey, only 3 percent of residents said they considered graffiti to be the community's top concern. That's down substantially from 19 percent in 2004 and a peak of 26 percent in 1998. The survey of 502 residents was conducted April 22 to May 2; the margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

Crime — illegal activity other than graffiti including home burglaries and car thefts — was the top concern, with 18 percent of respondents rating it No. 1, followed by traffic/road issues (8 percent) and gangs (8 percent).

Much of the decline in concern about graffiti coincides with the city's efforts in recent years to create a tidier look for Utah's second largest municipality — an effort that has focused in large part on graffiti removal.

"You don't see graffiti on our main corridors like you did a few years ago, and if you do, it's not there for very long," said Mayor Mike Winder.

In 2008, West Valley City created a new Community Preservation Department that combined different divisions, such as housing, animal services and code enforcement. As part of that change, the city increased the number of code enforcement officers to 12 from seven, with one officer dedicated solely to the issue of graffiti.

Enforcement offers not only write up those in violation of city ordinances, but also work to inform and educate people on the city's aesthetics rules and, in some cases, provide tools or resources to help.

With the issue of graffiti, free graffiti removal kits and a graffiti hotline — 801-963-3467 — are each designed to help remove paint quickly. The city also has other resources available at wvc-ut.gov. (Type in "graffiti" in the search field at the top of the page.)

Russ and Christina Colwell, who moved to West Valley City from Murray about two years ago, said they have yet to see evidence of the graffiti problem that helped spur the city's reorganization three years ago.

"It's an ongoing irritation, but I don't see it as a top community concern," Russ Colwell said.

The city also enlisted the help of citizen groups that formed to keep an eye out for vandals and help property owners cope when their buildings or signs are "tagged."

Pat and Jeff Deelstra, vice chairwoman and chairman of the city's Clean and Beautiful Committee, recently were honored for their efforts to improve the community and combat graffiti. Pat Deelstra, who works part time as a school crossing guard, distributes graffiti removal wipes. She and other crossing guards have removed substantial amounts of graffiti from walls and signs throughout West Valley, the city said.

"If I see graffiti on public property, I clean it off myself," said Pat Deelstra. "If I see any graffiti on private property, I give the owner some graffiti removal wipes. They are often amazed at how well they work — many people don't know how to remove graffiti."

Some other findings of the West Valley City survey:

— Three-quarters of respondents said they feel safe at night in their neighborhood (75 percent), up from 54 percent in 2008.

—The number of residents who feel the quality of life in West Valley City is better than it was five years ago grew by more than 31 percent from 2008 to 2011.

The Deelstras, who moved to West Valley City 10 years ago, say a lot of that increase in satisfaction can be attributed to the city's work to improve the community's aesthetics.

"When people drive through and don't see graffiti, they think better of any community," Pat Deelstra said. "If you have a nice, clean community, people want to live in it."

lesley@sltrib.com

Twitter: @CheapChick —

West Valley City survey

Only 3 percent of residents in Utah's second most populous city consider graffiti to be West Valley City's most pressing concern, down from a peak of 26 percent in 1998. The top three most important issues, according to residents:

1 • Crime (18%)

2 • Traffic, roads (8%)

3 • Gangs (8%)

Source: West Valley City, Discovery Research Group

Download the entire survey at http://1.usa.gov/rprlay