Detroit Considers New Blight Law, Tries To Figure Out Difference Between Murals and Graffiti

February 20, 2015 | Bucky Turco

Graffiti writers love Detroit. With its industrial ruins, abandoned buildings, and decaying structures, it’s a magnet for urban art and exploration. Artists from all over the United States make yearly pilgrimages there — and the city has had enough. Local paper Metrotimes spoke to a councilmember about some of the proposals they’re considering. One of the biggest changes would allow the city to levy fines against property owners who don’t keep their property graffiti free. If they’re noncompliant, the legislation would allow municipal workers to go in and buff said graffiti:

One ordinance puts the onus on the property owners to keep their buildings free of graffiti. It would give the city authority to ticket owners of vandalized property, who have a chance to clean it up within a week or face fines. “At the same time that they get the notice, they will get information about products they could use to clean it up,” Castañeda-López says. She also adds there would be incentives, such as a reduced fine, for property owners to install security cameras.

In the event that the owner does not clean it, Castañeda-López says the city would also be able to enter the property to remove it. And if the perpetrators are caught, they would also be required to clean up the graffiti as part of community service.

Making graffiti writers clean up graffiti is actually a pretty reasonable measure and would make a lot more sense than sending them to jail. One issue the city’s facing is figuring out the difference between legal murals and illegal blockbusters:

But how to draw the distinction between unauthorized graffiti and murals? Late last year, city officials issued thousands of dollars worth of fines before admitting they couldn’t tell the difference between vandalism and authorized artwork (they eventually dismissed the fines). To correct this, Castañeda-López says the city is working on the seemingly Herculean task of creating a registry for all Detroit’s existing street art.

That could take some time.

(Photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)