Surge in graffiti vexes Dot Ave merchants

Keith Nance, part of the city’s Graffiti Busters crew, removes a large piece of graffiti on Faulkner Street Tuesday. Seth Daniel photo

Several businesses along Dorchester Avenue have been hit hard by a wave of graffiti targeting their properties in recent weeks, an uptick that is prompting at least one company to re-consider its plans to open for business.

The rash of “tagging” has been centered in the Fields Corner and Glover’s Corner area, according to merchants and civic leaders, who are weighing new strategies to combat the problem.

“We’ve been talking about graffiti for two years, but generally what has happened is it’s really gotten worse,” said Hiep Chu, past president of the Fields Corner Civic Association. “I don’t know if there are more of them or if it’s the same bunch of people doing more of it. We don’t know. We’ve seen quite a lot of it around Fields Corner in particular. It is quite a concern.”

Councillor Frank Baker, who represents the area hit in the recent incidents, said the volume of graffiti is approaching levels not seen since the 1980s.

“Some people might say it’s art, but you’re painting someone else’s building,” Baker said. “Artwork is when you have a space that’s yours or you have permission to create something on a space. When things start to deteriorate, they’re not going to deteriorate in downtown neighborhoods or not even in South Boston nowadays. What will turn is my neighborhood and Dorchester Avenue. The small crimes like graffiti indicate something bigger is going on that we should pay attention to. The graffiti is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The rash of vandalism is prompting the owners of one property to even reconsider opening their doors for business. Metropolitan, a manufacturer of cabinets and countertops based in Norwood, purchased the former Rent-A-Center building at 1175 Dorchester Ave. for $2.675 million last month with the hopes of building out a new showroom. 

“We own a lot of buildings and we’re considering our options,” said Samantha Lehrer, director of marketing for Metropolitan. “The building was vandalized with a lot of graffiti and we’re now weighing our options…Our intention was to open up a showroom and now we’re trying to figure out if we make sense for the area and if it makes sense for us.”

The City of Boston’s Graffiti Busters program, which operates seasonally and helps property owners mitigate and remove the unwanted spray paint, resumed operations this month. But the city-run program’s budget is such that they will only come out for large jobs spanning a half-day or full day of work, according to Chu.

On Tuesday in Fields Corner, the Graffiti Busters team was hard at work removing large swaths of graffiti on Faulkner Street. Members of the crew said a lot of the graffiti that had been outstanding in the area has been removed this week, but keeping up with it would require more time for the crew. They said that having weekend work hours would make a huge difference in what they can accomplish.

In the absence of that program’s expansion, Chu said that members of Fields Corner Civic have discussed their own plan to stand-up a more robust volunteer effort to combat the problem during the group’s May meeting. It is based on a similar effort in Boston’s Back Bay 30 years ago that has trained more than 200 neighbors how best to remove graffiti and stickers. 

In Fields Corner, neighbors Annie Le and Vivien Girard have formed a standing committee within the civic group to track the outbreak and coordinate volunteer efforts. 

“This is really a grass-roots effort and we’ve learned quite a bit from others,” said Chu. “Annie Le and her group are constantly going around the train station and painting over it as soon as they see it.”



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