From the Forum – Graffiti removal from a neighbor’s property

Photo by PoPville flickr user Thundercheese

Graffiti removal from a neighbor’s property:

“I live in Dupont Circle, near a small market that’s part of a large rowhouse that also contains a few apartments or condos. There is some ugly graffiti (not graffiti art) on the side of the building. It’s not profane, but it is ugly and large, with the word “Voyer” (sic, assuming that’s supposed to be “voyeur,” although I’ve seen it elsewhere, so perhaps that’s someone’s name or tag) written repeatedly–that’s it. A few months ago, someone crossed out the previous “voyer” word and then spray painted the same word, again, this time in blue.

This graffiti is the first thing we and our neighbors see on the street–it’s impossible to miss. My question is, as neighbors, is there anything we can do to compel the owner or owners of the building or the city to erase this ugliness? I see that the city will help remove graffiti (, but it seems like the owner has to request it.”

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20 Comment

  • I’d talk to the neighbor and ask them to remove it. If they don’t seem interested, I’d offer to do it myself. You’ll probably have to repaint it several times until the taggers get the message…

  • call the dupont BID and tell them about it. They will paint it for free. They will talk to the neighbor.

  • So…it is clear that despite this annoying you and other neighbors, it doesn’t seem that you’ve asked them about it. That might be a good first step.

    The second step would be not to be “that”neighbor. You said yourself you want to “compel” them to do something about it, why not take a more neighborly approach and spend 5 bucks on some cleaning materials and 5 minutes of your time and clean it off yourself?

    I just can’t imagine going through life every day, for months so obviously irritated about something, without putting forth some effort to fix the issue.

  • Voyer is one of a couple of taggers who I will gut like a fish if I ever meet him. His scrawl is all over the city, it’s ugly, and adds nothing. Street art is wonderful, tagging is like pissing on the side of a building.

  • It seems that training in assertiveness is something everyone could benefit from – why don’t we offer skills in communication in schools? We encounter so many situations like this on Popville – where the easiest solution is that someone directly asks another person for what they need. I learned this while in therapy, but would have loved to learn this earlier in life.

    • Keep in mind though, that assertiveness can be a problem when you’re using it to demand that someone fix something to suit your particular aesthetic preferences. It’s also not as if the owner of the building is responsible for it. The owner has been transgressed against. To be “assertive” about demanding that the owner repair this violation quickly because it annoys you is, to my mind, not appropriate, neighborly, or kind.

      • And day one of training should be to teach the difference between “ask” and “demand” and how to distinguish one from the other. They are not the same thing.

      • There’s a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Assertiveness is based on balance – asking for what you’d like, but recognizing that you might not get it. The goal is to find common ground, have your request heard and understand the other person’s response to the situation.

      • Your points are well taken. And I agree with Anon 2:38 that there are a startling number of requests for help on PoPville that could be handled if the posters started by talking to their neighbors. In this case though, I’m imagining a beleaguered person who’s already dealing with the graffiti, and trying to come up with the time and cash to deal with it, who now has to deal with a neighbor — who’s offering complaints about how ugly it is, instead of offering to help. To my mind, “assertiveness” on the complaining neighbor’s part isn’t being helpful or neighborly. I do get the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. It’s just that in my opinion, approaching an aggrieved neighbor about how an offense against him/her offends your aesthetic sensibilities is not something to be assertive about.

  • How about offering to help? The owner of the building already has to deal with someone tagging his/her building, and the expense and disrespect that goes along with this. Now you want to “compel” him/her to fix it because it annoys you that it hasn’t been repaired quickly enough to suit you. That’s not being a particularly good neighbor. So maybe offer to take the time to match the original paint and even to do the painting — and commiserate re: some of the expenses and hazards of city life. And if you know that the city will help, maybe research that for your neighbor, who might not have this information.

  • I don’t know if you’ve already asked the neighbor to do something about it, but if you have and they have declined, I’d advise just painting it over yourself. I had a similar situation with a neighbor once who had graffiti on the back side of their fence facing the alley. Well, graffiti breeds more graffiti, and the neighbors fences soon started getting tagged. We asked the owner to do something about it and they said that “graffiti only bothers white folks” and that he wasn’t going to do a thing. So, a couple of us got together, went to Home Depot, bought some paint, and just repainted his fence around 1:00am one night. He was mad about it, but could never prove who it was. When the graffiti came back, we painted over it in the middle of the night again. Must have done that four or five times.
    Eventually, he called the police. They came out and he argued with them in his front yard for nearly an hour when they refused to take a report for someone covering up the graffiti on the alley side of his fence “without his permission”. The neighbors and I just sat on my front porch watching it for almost the whole hour. It was better than cable!

  • Accountering

    This is awesome.

    • No, it’s not awesome, and it’s not a good solution. Remember that when someone doesn’t like something of yours and decides to fix it for you.

    • I’m stunned at how many people seem to think that altering someone else’s property without their permission is just fine. How many of you would think it was legal/neighborly/ sane if someone decided that they had the right to alter YOUR property without your permission? So your neighbor’s property rights somehow matter less than yours? If I don’t like your barking dog, creeping ivy, cheap looking porch furniture … It’s just fine for me to take matters into my own hands and “fix” it? Yes, I get that the graffiti presents a problem, but your solution isn’t funny or legal.

  • It seems like This ‘Voyer’ guy is in a battle with some of the other graffiti taggers in the city. They keep crossing each others things out and writing their names over each other.

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