Several downtown businesses are still cleaning up property that was tagged with graffiti overnight April 24, but it isn’t a new occurrence.
Richmond County sheriff’s Investigator Dan Ferrel said seven businesses around the 900 block of Broad Street filed reports April 25 after they found “DE” or “DESO” painted across their walls. Sometimes profanity was included in the artwork.
“I’ve taken it off at least two other times,” said John Bowen, the president of Cross Creek Designer and Builder at 971 Broad St. “I’ve just had enough.”
Bowen said it cost about $200 to repaint walls and concrete flower pots.
After the initial reports, Ferrel found at least 17 graffiti tags on downtown walls. All followed the same pattern.
“It looked like a planned marketing event,” he said.
After speaking with downtown businesses, he said he learned the tagging has been going on for about a month, but many businesses clean it off and never report it.
The Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative will clean graffiti off a building for a small fee. Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, which oversees the program, said she was not aware of the graffiti left April 24. CADI employees did their monthly rounds
Friday to look for graffiti.
Katie Lyle, the district vice president of the Family Y in downtown Augusta and North Augusta, reported graffiti on the Broad Street facility but did not want to prosecute.
Despite the vandalism, Lyle said she recognized the talent of the artists.
“I just hate that this is the avenue they’ve chosen to express
their artistic ability,” she said. She hopes those responsible will be found so they can be encouraged to find better avenues
for expressing their talent.
“Locking them up is not an option for us,” Lyle said.
Investigators are still trying to determine what the tags mean and who is responsible. Ferrel said it’s definitely not gang-related.
Some business owners suspect skateboarders, but Ferrel said there is no evidence to suggest that. A surveillance video from one of the businesses shows a group of young white males in hoodies spaying and brushing the art.
If prosecuted, the vandals will face charges of misdemeanor criminal trespass.
Bowen said he’s concerned the graffiti will turn people away from downtown if the issue isn’t addressed.