Burlington mayor seeks to reduce graffiti problem


BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Graffiti tagging continues to be an eyesore in Burlington, and now the new mayor is taking steps to clean up the perennial problem.

An unwanted tapestry of paint covers many walls in the Queen City.

“I definitely noticed the frequency of it. So, it’s something that stands out for sure,” said Erin Roemer, a local resident.

“There’s definitely a lot. And there’s definitely been more. We’ve lived here for four years. So there’s… it’s definitely there’s been more recently,” said Olivia Bowe-Shulman.

Passersby on South Union Street take notice of the walls covered in tags, sometimes tags over other tags. “I always love like super cool murals and stuff. Like you can really draw some beautiful stuff, but if you just like to hang it up, like eventually some like underpaid workers, you have to clean it and I think that’s like, not chill,” said Lincoln Lewis, a UVM Student.

Burlington for years has had a graffiti problem, something that became significantly worse during the pandemic. The city previously had crews clean it up but the problem has endured. Mayor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak says it’s a top priority. “It is one of those immediate, impactful things we could be working on strategically to make our community feel safer,” she said.

She says city crews could work block to block clearing all graffiti instead of doing piecemeal work around the city. She hopes to engage the community more down the line, once the issue is more manageable. “When I first moved to Burlington, we had a sort of a community response team, where if graffiti popped up, people in their neighborhood would take care of it and take, sort of adopt a corner adopt a section of town. We’re not there yet, but I’d like us to get to that place.” Mulvaney-Stanak said. The mayor hopes the taggers will be held accountable using the Community Justice Center’s restorative justice program. But few of the perpetrators are ever caught.

Rachel Jolly with the Community Justice Center says they assist victims of graffiti as well. “We do have victim services specialists who can at least have that initial phone call to see what the impact has been, what are the requests being made, and then work with our city partners sometimes or our community partners to see what can be done,” she said.

New murals downtown sought to discourage the street artists, but that hasn’t stopped the tagging at Music & Arts on Maple Street.

“If it’s good art and it’s a beautiful thing, then I think that’s really cool. If it’s bad art on top of cool things are really just bad art. I don’t like that art, I don’t want to see it anywhere. Literally, it’s gonna lower your vibration,” said the store’s Trevor Sohnen.

The mayor says they are also working to install more murals to deter the bad actors from tagging public spaces.

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