ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s hard to go a day without seeing graffiti somewhere in Albuquerque. It’s not just an annoying problem, it’s an expensive one.
It’s a quick fix, but a constant battle. “Some of them do it because it’s gang-related, but others want to do it to express themselves,” said local Gabriella Gonzales.
No part of Albuquerque is spared by the graffiti problem. If there’s a blank wall, vandals will find it.
“Theres a lot of spots, especially in the back alleys and side streets where the building is completely tagged up and it’s not good to look at,” said local Joseph Fitzgibbons.
For years, the city has been tackling this problem head-on. “It’s an ongoing thing, just like when we get our refuse, it’s just a part of keeping Albuquerque beautiful,” said the City’s Solid Waste Director Matthew Whelan.
Whelan said they have a team of 20 workers dedicated solely towards removing graffiti. “Our graffiti crews have zones throughout the city they normally patrol, so if they see any graffiti, they address it as they see it,” said Whelan.
But it looks like the graffiti problem is getting better. The number of graffiti cleanup jobs has dropped dramatically, from about 80,000 a few years ago to under 40,000 over the past year.
But this clean-up still has a high price tag. “The general budget for our graffiti crews is about $1.4 million,” said Whelan.
The biggest costs, about $1 million, is spent on the workers, and roughly $230,000 on supplies and vehicles.
“I had no idea it cost that much,” said local Chari Fitzgibbons. Locals agree the benefits of having clean streets outweigh the costs.
“I understand why they would want to clean it up because it looks bad and makes the city look bad, but it’s a lot of money,” said Joseph Fitsgibbons.
The city said its 311 app has really helped with getting rid of graffiti. Crews try to get to every job within 48 hours of a report.
Obviously, Santa Fe is a much smaller city than Albuquerque, but even it spends almost $250,000 a year on graffiti cleanup.