AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin spent around $500,000 cleaning up graffiti in both fiscal year 2021 and 2022, data obtained by KXAN shows.

There are three major departments involved in the work, according to the city, though they may not be exhaustive. Of those departments — Building Services, Transportation and Parks and Recreation — PARD spends the most by far.

The Austin PARD said in Fiscal Year 2022, its four full time employees and one supervisor scrubbed off more than 33,000 square feet of graffiti. Data the department provided shows it cost them $488,166, though data the city provided through a public information request was lower.

That doesn’t include the money it spent on contractors who helped with the work.

They expect to clear out more graffiti than that in Fiscal Year 2023, where they have or expect to remove 126,839 square feet of graffiti. It would be like scrubbing the White House, which is 55,000 square feet, more than twice.

PARD also said most the work they contract out, which they expect they’ll spend $109,000 on this fiscal year, is spent in skate parks.

Of the hot spots for graffiti they listed the following locations:

  • Health Eiland Skate Park
  • Mabel Davis Skate Park
  • Beverly Sheffield Park
  • Dove Springs Park
  • Rosewood Park
  • Mary Moore Searight Park
  • Dick Nichols Park
  • Cesar Chavez
  • Brentwood Park
  • Shoal Creek area
  • Parque Zaragoza
  • Davis White

Who’s job is the cleanup?

If the graffiti is on a sidewalk or traffic sign, which is city property, the city is tasked with doing the cleanup. Graffiti can be reported to 311.

If the graffiti happens on the side of a private business or on private property, it falls on the business owner.

City ordinance does require that property owners get rid of graffiti within 30 days, though a spokesperson for the city noted property owners “will not be fined if the graffiti is not removed.”

If you plan to remove graffiti yourself, but want to file a police report, the city asks you to wait until officers arrive before removing it.

After calling 311 to make a report of graffiti, Austin residents may be offered free paint and the city can send its Austin Youth Development Program, which cleans up graffiti for free.

Prominent graffiti cases

Just blocks from where tens of thousands of South by Southwest participants will gather starting Friday, graffiti that has sparked controversy is still written on walls despite calls from some for the graffiti to be removed. Some have taken to clearing the graffiti themselves.

The message: “Even though I was raped, I am OK,” has been documented by KXAN or its viewers at least 60 times around Austin. It’s unclear how long the graffiti has been up, who’s behind it, or what message is intended to be sent.

KXAN has also previously done a story about the “Buscar” graffiti popping up around town. “Buscar” being the Spanish word “to search.”

KXAN has also documented dozens of instances where this graffiti popped up around town, including on light poles, overpasses, buildings, billboards and signs.

“It’s pretty interesting because it is a moment where somebody unknown is trying to make themselves known, it’s kind of a way of ordinary people who feel invisible making themselves temporarily visible,” said the chair of the American Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin, Randolph Lewis.