AUSTIN (KXAN) — A concerned KXAN viewer reached out wondering if the City of Austin has seen more graffiti recently.

In the last three years, complaints to Austin 311 have fluctuated. The following numbers are from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1 for each year. In 2019, the city logged 2,997 service requests to clean up graffiti. The following year, in 2020, that number shot up to 3,557. Then, in 2021, the number went down to 2,860. These service requests included calls about public health concerns with graffiti abatement, graffiti on park grounds, streets, bridges and more.

Artist Carmen Rangel, who goes by vivalapainter online, stands in front of a mural she created that reads “Be Well” off of N. Lamar Blvd., Austin. Dec. 29, 2021. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

This is an issue that hits close to the hearts of local artists when their work is vandalized. For Carmen Rangel, it’s happened before.

“My work has been defaced a couple of times,” she said. “At first, honestly, it would really hurt my feelings and but I think I’ve gotten tough.”

It’s a risk she and so many street artists are willing to face.

“I feel like it’s just kind of part of the process of being a public artist, you know, you’re putting your work out there and it’s going to be exposed not only to the elements but to graffiti,” Rangel said.

She admits she loves graffiti and is inspired by it. However, she also loves public art and murals, some of which she creates, so whenever those pieces get vandalized she said, “It does hurt when it happens because people put a lot of their energy, and you know, their crafts, their resources, it costs a lot of money to buy these materials to fix up a mural.”

Rangel said she usually finds herself cleaning it up.

“Whenever a mural gets tagged, or something like that happens, a lot of times the artists are paying for the paint and materials to fix up the project themselves,” Rangel said. “I just grab my materials and go fix it as quickly as possible.”

If it’s a City of Austin Art in Public Places piece, it’s an artist’s responsibility to maintain those art pieces — including graffiti removal. Depending on the graffiti damage, if it is too extensive or in areas that prove too challenging, then the artist will be paid to repair the damage. If an artist determines city crews can clean it then the city will go in and remove the graffiti.

In downtown, the Downtown Austin Alliance maintains most of the art pieces. However, graffiti on private property, like a business, falls on the business owner to take care of it. If there’s art involved, then that depends on the agreement between the owner and the artist.

The city encourages people to call 311 to report graffiti in public areas. From there, 311 will determine which department is responsible for the area or structure.