Despite recent spurt, graffiti in Kent is ‘sporadic’

Nicole Stempak

Manager Paul Braden said they tried to remove the first coat of spray paint on the red brick of the store’s rear and alley-facing perimeter.

Manager Paul Braden said they tried to remove the first coat of spray paint on the red brick of the store’s rear and alley-facing perimeter. The following week, there was another coat of navy blue paint on the side and on two delivery trucks. He said he doesn’t know if the spray paint can be off the trucks without repainting them.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “We work hard to keep our building nice and our community clean and this is the thanks we get.”

Despite the recent graffiti at Woodsy’s, located at 135 S. Water St., Lt. Jamye Cole of the Kent Police Department said graffiti tends to be sporadic.

“There are spurts for a day or two or a week at a time and then it disappears,” he said. “The fact that it happens is a problem, but it’s not like it occurs continuously.”

Cole said he hadn’t seen the graffiti at Woodsy’s and did not know what, if any, symbolic meaning it had.

He speculated some graffiti may go relatively unnoticed, but the vandalism to Woodsy’s drew attention because of the store’s downtown location. It’s also possible more property owners report graffiti. Cole said it’s fairly common for insurance companies to want a police report filed.

“Graffiti is a source of frustration for police officers because victims get hit but don’t report it,” Cole said. “Because of that, ‘spurts’ of graffiti could actually be over with before we even hear about it. That handicaps us on our ability to be on the lookout for it.”

An employee at Skullz Salon, at 125 S. Water St. and Woodsy’s alley neighbor, said she hadn’t noticed the graffiti but isn’t surprised where it happened.

“I haven’t seen it anywhere except on the alleys because they don’t have the balls to do it anywhere else,” said Skullz receptionist Jamie Cox.

Gene Roberts, service director for the city of Kent, said the Service Department provides residents and businesses with free cleaners to remove graffiti. The city spends about $300 a year on graffiti removal products.

Sue Nelson, of Sue Nelson Designs, Ltd., 156 S. Water St., has taken it upon herself to remove graffiti. She has been working with real estate agent Alan Orashan for at least 15 years to clean up the city. Orashan removes graffiti, and Nelson’s paint and upholstery store donates the cleaner.

“We donate the remover because we’re trying to do our part and keep the city looking respectable not only for students and their families but also for residents,” Nelson said.

Nelson said they try to remove graffiti whenever they see or hear about it. Their goal is to remove the spray paint within 24 hours so “it’s not as much fun for them (spray painters).”

“It sends a message that we don’t want it here so please don’t do it,” she said. “If you show you care about the city, others will too. If you let that go, it sends a message, too, that buildings are fair game and that’s not how we feel about Kent.”

Nelson’s work seems to be paying off.

Mary Gilbert, executive director of Main Street Kent, said there have been no reports of graffiti in Acorn Alley. She said it might be because of the security cameras. It might also be because of the broken window syndrome.

“If you fix the broken windows and keep everything looking nice, then it would be less likely that the window will be broken again,” Gilbert said.

Tom Simpson has called the cops a number of times during his nine years as owner of The Kent Stage. He has reported graffiti on the brick exterior, black double doors and front glass door and windows. Since the downtown redevelopment, graffiti is less of a problem.

“There was a time when people were climbing onto the roof of the building next door and spray painting our side with language that shouldn’t be on Main Street,” Simpson said, adding that that someone told him people as far away as Columbus knew of that wall.

The last time the Kent police made a graffiti-related arrest was in October, when a woman and a man were charged with fifth-degree felony criminal vandalism. Police caught the pair with spray paint on their hands and clothing that matched the fresh coat of paint on several businesses along North Water Street.

Lt. Cole asked that anyone who sees graffiti to contact the Kent Police Department at 330-673-7732.

“It doesn’t make sense for someone to try to leave their moniker because it’s not going to stay up in Kent,” Braden said.

Contact public affairs reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].