Graffiti Removal

Laura Voisinet, VaHi Graffiti Task Force –
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Graffiti in Virginia Highland

  • What is it?
  • What is the connection to Safety?
  • What can we do about it?


before and after 

Graffiti is…

  • Marking, drawing, etching and scratching on private, public and commercial property without the owner’s permission.
  • Usually created by those seeking recognition within their peer groups.
  • A serious crime of vandalism. Like a “broken window”, it is a signal of more serious criminal activity and graffiti to come.
  • Not necessarily gang-related – – only 10% of graffiti is associated with gangs – – but still a malicious violation of property owner’s rights that is time consuming and expensive to remove.


Graffiti Abatement as a part of Neighborhood Safety

Neighborhood safety starts with good outdoor lighting, locking our doors, knowing our neighbors and adopting these good habits:

  • The Clean Car Campaign – keep your cars empty of visible items
  • Join FBAC and report suspicious activity
  • Pick up litter and keep up our yards
  • Remove graffiti immediately. Part of the allure of taggers is the notoriety and thrill of the exposure. To counteract, remove swiftly then prevent a recurrence through perseverance and patience. The taggers quickly lose interest.


All of these efforts show we care and that our neighborhood is one of the best in Atlanta!

What can we do?

Recognize that graffiti is cyclical. Longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures in Spring tend to bring an uptake in graffiti. Then, shorter daylight hours and colder temperatures in Fall bring a decline.

In Virginia Highland, stickers and tags on traffic signs, utility boxes, benches and poles are our biggest nuisance. We do get large-scale graffiti on open surfaces, such as walls and fences on both public and private property, but this form of graffiti is much less prevalent.

Graffiti A-B-C’s

  • Prevention: plant evergreen shrubbery, hollies, or ivy to cover large spaces that attract repeat graffiti.
  • Photograph graffiti and report to: Include location and date.
  • Remove or cover-up graffiti immediately. Part of the allure of taggers is the notoriety and thrill of the exposure. To counteract, remove swiftly then prevent a recurrence through perseverance and patience. The taggers quickly lose interest.


GOAL: Restore to original condition when possible

  • Remove stickers: For new stickers, use a utility scraper to lift a corner and peel off. For old stickers, especially those in the sun, scrape as much as possible and follow-up with water and a kitchen 3M type scouring pad. Use some serious elbow grease! Sometimes the stickers are at the 9 -10 foot high, bring a step stool or ladder.
  • Paint over paint: It is cheaper and quicker to paint over tags on already painted walls or surfaces. Roll up to 7 feet high. Keep extra paint to match in the event of a recurrence
  • Restore Bare Walls: To restore to original condition, use a solution along with power washer. There is no product that works for all surfaces or tag chemical composition. Solutions with some proven success are: Motsenbocker’s Liftoff 4, Goof Off, Easy Off Oven Cleaner, and Bare Brick, Stone & Masonry Graffiti Remover (available from our neighborhood VaHi Graffiti Taskforce or select City Recreation Center’s – go to for kit information.) Follow the product recommendations, especially waiting the required amount of time then rinse using a power washer. A gas-powered washer is more flexible as it doesn’t necessitate an electrical power source. Long hoses and a water source will be essential.

    Can’t see the video? Watch on YouTube
  • Cover tags on fences, poles and benches: Use matching color spray paint.
  • Street Signs: Remove stickers and then tackle the tag. These are tricky to remove as the solutions that are able to remove a painted tag can also remove the message on the sign. Proceed gingerly with Safety Wipes (available from VaHi Graffiti Taskforce or Motsenbocker’s Liftoff 4 tested in small spot). As a last resort for the reverse side, spray paint with grey or silver. Note that this will eliminate the reflectivity of a street sign creating a possible safety hazard and should not be done to the face of the sign. To replace a sign, call the City Hotline: 404-546-4288

Not to be left out…

  • Adopt a spot: Some areas tend to be tagged repeatedly. Volunteers to adopt a spots and clean as needed. Advice and instructions available by emailing
  • Ask local merchants and residents to remove graffiti from their property.
  • Call 911 if the graffiti is in progress or if you suspect the graffiti to be gang-related.
  • Call City Hotline: 404-546-4288, to report graffiti on Public Property. This is a Department of Public Works call center, and a service request will be generated upon completion of the call to begin the removal process. You may also Email City:
  • Advise: email
  • More Ideas: visit

Virginia Highland is a vibrant intown Atlanta neighborhood made all the more so by graffiti abatement. Thanks to the many dedicated volunteers who make this happen!

September 22, 2010: Wachovia Bank branch in VaHi cleans graffiti on stone wall in front of bank. Photo: David Eckoff