Offensive Graffiti in Bay View Park and Emigh Playground

July 2, 2018

By Evan Casey

Two separate cases of offensive and derogatory graffiti displayed on public property were found by disgruntled citizens in Bay View last month. This led some to call for a quicker response for graffiti removal across Milwaukee. 

Earlier in June, District 14 County Supervisor Jason Haas learned about a case of offensive graffiti through the Bay View Town Hall Facebook group. The graffiti, painted
on the Oak Leaf trail in Bay View Park, read, “You can kill a baby not the memory. Whore.”

Haas notified the parks director on June 9, but the graffiti was not covered (with blacktop) until the morning of June 11. Haas believes part of the delay was because the parks department has a “razor-thin staff.”

An offensive message was painted on the Oak Leaf Trail in Bay View Park. —Jason Haas

“There’s been vandalism in the parks from the days that they were first created, so it’s an ongoing problem,” said Haas, who does not believe this was a hate crime, or related to any other incidents. “I want [the vandalizer] to get help…lots and lots of people saw their message.”

A week later, more graffiti showed up, this time on a Milwaukee Public Schools building in Emigh Playfield, 494 E. Morgan Ave. This incident was also posted on the Bay View Town Hall page. Alderman Tony Zielinski was alerted via the group. He said that his office called the incident in.

This time however, the graffiti was cleaned off entirely by the morning of June 18, fewer than 24 hours after it was reported. It was removed before a children’s summer recreation event began the morning of June 18, according to a Milwaukee Recreation employee.

Graffiti of any kind is illegal in Milwaukee. A city ordinance that deals with graffiti states, “No person may write, paint, or draw any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other real or personal property owned, operated or maintained by a government entity or any agency or by any person, firm or corporation unless the express permission of the owner or operator of the property has been obtained.” The penalty for graffiti is $500 to $2,000, where damages total less than $500. 

Milwaukee does have a graffiti hotline that deals specifically with the removal of vandalism on public and private properties. The Anti-Graffiti Program is part of the Department of Neighborhood Services’ outreach. City employees remove most of the graffiti on city property and work closely with the Milwaukee Police Department. Their website, which can be found on the City of Milwaukee website, goo.gl/8CCxwz, also gives tips for graffiti removal.

Christina Klose, the DNS Communications Coordinator, said there have been 436 graffiti complaints in 2018 to date. Klose said the program works with businesses and residents to help abate graffiti. 

“The property owner is responsible to remove graffiti on their own private property,” said Klose. “If graffiti is not abated, the city can then send a contractor to clean it up and charge the property owner back for the expense.”

Erin Dentice reported offensive graffiti that she found at Emigh Playground. Photograph altered to obscure vulgarity. —Erin Dentice

Bay View resident Erin Dentice posted a shared photo of the graffiti at Emigh Playfield on Facebook. Dentice was happy that it was removed quickly. She said she did not remember seeing any graffiti there before. 

“My first response was somewhat surprised,” said Dentice. “We’ve used that park a lot over the years and I don’t recall it ever being an
issue before.”

Haas, who is also the chair of the Committee on Parks, Energy and Environment, said he would try to find out why there was a delay in the removal
process of the Oak Leaf Trail graffiti. 

“I hope that the person who made it would seek counseling,” he said. “While I think anyone who commits vandalism should be held accountable, I think it’s important that they get help to deal with their anger, which I presume fueled their decision to paint this message on the Oak Leaf Trail.”

In response to concerns that the message on the trail was still legible beneath the coat of blacktop, Eduardo Santiago, Interim Chief of Operations for Milwaukee County Parks, told Haas that a black top sealer would be applied that he said should effectively obliterate the graffiti.

Emigh playground is bounded by Morgan, Wilbur, Quincy, and Whitnall avenues. Bay View Park, 3120 S. Lake Drive stretches along the east side of the road from Oklahoma Avenue to the Federal Bureau of Investigations property, 3600 S. Lake Dr.

The Milwaukee Police Department was contacted for this story but did not respond before press time. The anti-graffiti hotline number is (414) 286-8715. 

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