Graffiti is an eyesore, but more importantly, it is a signal to criminals that communities do not care. Graffiti contributes to a decline in property values and quality of life. TAG, or Towns Against Graffiti, is an unusual partnership between communities in Lower Bucks County to remove graffiti from the property of local businesses, homes and public property at no charge.
Graffiti is not necessarily done just to deface property. The vandals, known as "taggers", write their nicknames on buildings, highway overpasses, and bridges. Each "artist" makes his or her individual mark on a surface, to obtain recognition of peers. These marks, or "tags" may be communicating that specific gang or drug activity is active in the area. Research has shown that prompt removal of graffiti is necessary to prevent repeated outbreaks.
TAG was started in 1997 to combat the problem of youth crime, especially graffiti and vandalism. Officials in Bensalem Township became alarmed when slogans using gang lingo began to appear on buildings in the township. Spearheaded by Mayor Joseph DeGirolamo, the group started with four municipalities and has expanded to encompass ten.
TAG focuses on three areas: graffiti removal, law enforcement, and public education. TAG provides prompt and effective graffiti removal, free of charge, to any business or individual whose property has been vandalized, using a specialized power washing machine and chemicals. There is a full-time crew that patrols the area and responds promptly to complaints.
Each of the participating communities has passed a uniform ordinance making it illegal for minors to purchase or possess indelible markers. Affected business and residential property owners are told about the TAG program in a letter, which also specifies that they have ten days to remove the graffiti from their buildings, and that the TAG program will help.
Frederick Harran, deputy director of safety for Bensalem Township and co-coordinator of TAG, says that cooperation between municipalities has been vital to the effort's success. Police officers from each participating community sit on TAG's working committee and each municipal police department has increased its patrols and has been prompt in reporting incidents.
TAG's supporters have worked hard to promote public awareness of the program. Since its inception, TAG has received strong support from area businesses, who have donated funds or supplies, including the truck and power washing machine and a video about the program that is shown in schools and for community groups.
TAG even extended its geographical area of operation to help a synagogue in Richboro remove anti-Semitic graffiti from its walls in 1998.
Residents who spot graffiti in their neighborhood should call the TAG hotline, a joint venture with radio station WBCB in Levittown, at 215-949-1490. Visit the Towns Against Graffiti website to learn more about this united effort to combat graffiti in our Lower Bucks County neighborhoods.