Allston Draws a Blank On Bounty To Stop Local Graffiti


Graffiti and artists hit alleyways on Harvard Avenue.

Graffiti artists and taggers hit alleyways on Harvard Avenue.

by Shana Wickett

Despite attempts to stop local graffiti, officials say no one has claimed a $500 reward offered by the Allston Board of Trade for information leading to the arrest or conviction of anyone responsible for tagging private property.

The Allston Board of Trade reinstated and increased the reward in September 2008 after the $100 reward offered years ago “fell by the wayside,” said Bob Webber, the board’s president.

“We wanted to [sink] some teeth into it and see if we could discourage the graffiti taggers,” said Webber. “It’s really troublesome to those of us property owners who want to keep our places looking decent.”

When taggers are caught, graffiti activity tends to slow, said Katie Reed, executive director of Allston Village Main Streets.

“The goal is to either catch people enough or keep up with properties well enough so the problem is reduced,” she said.

Although graffiti activity often occurs late at night and is difficult to prevent, said Reed, some people do not report witnessing it, fearing reprisal. Others believe it is not threatening since it is “not typically” gang-related.

Both Webber and Reed said graffiti is a problem that contributes to the neighborhood’s run-down image.

“[Graffiti] gives the perception that the area isn’t safe, which is a shame because it’s generally pretty safe,” said Reed.

Webber agreed, saying “people will agree that graffiti is an eyesore.”

“If some new people come into our neighborhood to shop or visit or go to a restaurant and we have buildings that have graffiti all over them, [it] will discourage new business,” he added.

While no one has claimed the reward, Webber and Reed said Allston is a neighborhood targeted by city graffiti cleanup programs in the spring and summer months.

Since spring, business owners have been cleaning up graffiti or painting over it. Maintenance efforts in addition to creative approaches, such as painting murals, discourage repeat offenders, Reed said. The city also has graffiti cleanup programs throughout the spring and summer months, such as Boston’s pressure washer-equipped “Graffiti Busters” and Councilor Mark Ciommo’s “Fight the Blight” campaign, which brought volunteers to Allston’s streets last summer to pinpoint graffiti and other issues of concern.

Some businesses also foster local artists’ work to deter unwanted graffiti. Kim Harris, co-owner of LAB Boston on Brighton Avenue, displays local graffiti artists’ work in the store.

“Sometimes you have to [tag] to get into galleries or to get your name known, but there are ways to do it without ruining storefronts,” said Harris.

The International Bicycle Center store on Brighton Avenue also attracts taggers and graffiti artists because of its large exterior wall. Noted artist Shepard Fairey painted the store’s huge canvas-like side, but was unable to finish.

Unfinished work by controversial graffiti artist Shepard Fairey covers the side of the International Bicycle Center on Brighton Avenue.

Unfinished work by controversial graffiti artist Shepard Fairey covers the side of the International Bicycle Center on Brighton Avenue.

Setting aside space “gives local people the chance to draw and get their work out there in a certain setting,” said Erich Lease, a store manager.

Whether it is the reward or diligent cleanup that deters graffiti, Webber said the overall goal is to improve Allston’s aesthetic appeal.

“The Allston Board of Trade and the individual business owners care about the appearance of our area,” said Webber. “Whatever we can do to enhance that appearance we are interested in pursuing.”


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