NILES - Property owners in the city will be responsible for the removal of all graffiti that can be seen anywhere on their properties, according to an ordinance placed in first reading during Wednesday's city council meeting.
"Earlier this summer, we had juveniles running around spray-painting homes and businesses," Councilman Edward Stredney said. "We have some language in our building codes to address the problem, but nothing that directly addresses the removal of graffiti from property.
"We want to make sure everyone is on the same page on what to do about graffiti on their properties," he said.
Graffiti is being defined by any inscription, design, word figure or mark drawn, painted or written upon any building, fence, gate, rock, structure or tree.
Property owners or their managers are responsible to remove the graffiti without leaving the surface color in a spotted or mismatched condition.
If the graffiti is not removed, the city will remove it and charge the appropriate amount for costs and wages of employees.
Councilman Ed McCormick said there has been an increase in the number of instances of people spray-painting property over the last year.
"As we were working on the new bike path, someone spray-painted the bridge that goes over Mosquito Creek," McCormick said. "Even before the Fifth Avenue bridge was completed, someone spray-painted it. We had to clean it up."
Stredney said because some spray-painted markings may be gang-related, city officials want to make sure they are taken down as quickly as possible.
"Our goal is to make sure our neighborhoods are safe, and making sure these markings are removed is one step in doing that," he said.
Police Chief Robert Hinton told council members the department currently is investigating six different cases involving the spray-painting of properties.
"We will seek restitution," Hinton said.
Councilman Reggie Giancola questioned what will happen if the graffiti is placed on city-owned or state-owned property.
"The likelihood is we will remove it and go after our costs, " Mayor Ralph Infante said.
A public hearing is scheduled before the first council meeting in November.