PARLEYS CANYON — Salt Lake County needs help to clean up a graffiti problem at the mouth of Parleys Canyon. Just as soon as workers clean it up, the vandals tag it again; and that means more work and more money to keep cleaning the same place regularly.
"It is a continual problem we have up there," said Lt. Justin Hoyal, spokesman for the Unified Police Department.
He said the foot and bicycle bridges leading to the Parleys Trail trailhead are regularly tagged and vandalized. People passing through the area can spot graffiti right away, along with plenty of evidence of cleanup efforts.
There's actually a long history of graffiti in this corner of the valley. Over the years, mainly high school students have made a tradition of repainting so-called "suicide rock" that juts from the floor of the mouth of the canyon.
But it's all of the other tagging and painting on the way to the rock that concerns UPD the most. Hoyal said officers are up there all the time, and they see everything from murals and initials to vandalized trail signs.
"It defaces the park and defaces the trailways," he said. "Those are areas that we are trying hard to keep nice so that citizens have a beautiful place to go walk, hike, ride their bikes and recreate."
On Monday, there were signs that some of the graffiti in the area was relatively new. Flecks and drops of red paint lay scattered across the snow near a tag on a concrete wall.
There were also many beige-painted layers underneath the new graffiti — evidence that the same spot had been painted over as part of a clean-up effort not long ago.
"Our graffiti removal team goes up there frequently to remove graffiti, because it continually happens," Hoyal said.
Nancy White is the graffiti removal program manager with the Unified Police Department. She urges anyone who spots graffiti to report it quickly on the graffiti hotline, 1-801-END-GRAF. If someone tags it again, report it again, she said.
White said studies show graffiti sends a message to criminals. "I think it says, ‘We don't care. We are not trying to keep our place clean and presentable,'" White said. "It has so much to do with property value."
Hoyal agreed. If criminals get the message that it's OK to cover the area with graffiti, he believes that more will add to the mess.
"We are up there, we are trying to keep it clean, and our officers are up there," the lieutenant said. "If people are caught spray painting where they are not supposed to, you are going to get charged."
Graffiti vandalism is a class B misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.