RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s Department of Public Works said there’s a rise in graffiti across the city. Now, the city is enlisting help from a local business owner to clean it up.
The Public Works Department said in 2019 that they filled 24 requests to remove graffiti. However, in 2021, that number spiked to 310. So far, crews have filled 418 requests to remove graffiti this year.
The department’s Program and Operations Manager, Vassar Sumpter, said the downtown area — and the Fan neighborhood, in particular — are a magnet for graffiti. “The Fan area receives the most tags and defacement of traffic signs,” Sumpter said.
Most requests to remove graffiti come from Harrison and Main Streets and the Parkwood Fan Corridor.
Sumpter added that they’re seeing a rise in the amount of re-work they must complete on the Broad Street Corridor, from Staples Mill Road to 14th Street. For example, crews reworked The Sauer Building on West Broad Street nine times this year. The building had large lettering on it.
Crews also reworked a sidewalk on Monument Avenue 15 times this year. The sidewalk had a ‘Good Kids’ stamp on it.
Johnny Johnson is the owner of Johnny On The Spot, a carpentry, power wash, painting and graffiti removal business on Bainbridge Street. He’s partnering with Venture Richmond and the city to remove graffiti.
“They [the city] can’t keep up with it,” Johnson said, adding that since he started the business, his team has removed 800 to 900 pieces of graffiti. A few of his managers primed and washed away spray paint on a nearby building Thursday morning. They sprayed the graffiti with a solution, let it set, and then sprayed it with 300-degree water.
Just around the corner on Bainbridge Street, there’s a similar sight of vandalism on a pink-colored mural — black lettering now covers it.
“This doesn’t belong,” Johnson said. “It was here about a couple of weeks ago. The people who painted the mural did such a great job.” Johnson said a group of six people painted the mural last year and it took them a few weeks to finish it. “We’re trying to do everything we can to beautify the neighborhoods and we have people that just really don’t care,” he added.
The city’s Department of Public Works said they don’t typically fix art murals, but they do notify the property owner so the artist can repair it. According to Sumpter, the department has a limited palette of colors.
Johnson said his team removes graffiti for businesses, local residents and even hospitals like VCU Medical Center. Sometimes, his work stretches beyond the city of Richmond. “There is just so much down here in the city. So many places, you can turn down an alley and you just see so much of it,” he said.
Richmond police told 8News there were 74 reported incidents of vandalism involving graffiti from Jan. 1, 2021 to Aug. 29, 2021. There were 81 reported incidents of vandalism involving graffiti from Jan. 1 to Aug. 29 this year.
Johnson’s building and work vehicles are vandalized every six to eight months, but now he has security cameras to capture the people behind the spray paint. In the meantime, he is on a mission to keep the city graffiti-free. “Richmond is a great place to be. It’s a great place to be, work and live, and we just need to be on the same accord,” he said.