Building Owners Meet with Police Chief on Proposed Graffiti Ordinance

The NDDC hosted a group of building owners in a meeting with Police Chief Taylor on Tuesday, April 20th.  The conversation started with the proposed Graffiti Ordinance but quickly expanded to address the broader issue of vandalism.

Chief Taylor pointed out that his interest in graffiti comes from the goal of preventing further property damage.  Graffiti is often the initial form of vandalism but he recognizes that there can be other, and more costly, forms of property damage too.

The building owners suggested that the proposed ordinance was too limited in its focus on graffiti.  The example of Hastings, with its legal condemnation of all forms of destruction of property, was cited as a potentially more effective approach.  The group concluded that both the subsections and language of the Hastings model merited consideration for inclusion in a piece for Northfield.

Several building owners raised concerns about the vagueness of the proposed ordinance regarding graffiti remediation techniques.  They also pointed out that there are very specific and stringent federal regulations for designated historic districts.  The group concluded by recognizing that the ordinance needed substantial research and subsequent revision, and that an appropriate role for the HPC and potential funding mechanisms should be included in this work.

A number of meetings, and discussions, over the past two years on the subject of vandalism were summarized.  Issues included rowdiness, noise, security, and mischief.  Potential action steps included increase foot- and bike-patrols, extended hours of lighting, additional light fixtures, surveillance cameras, the so-called “Code of Conduct” and written permission from building owners for the police to take action on private property.

With serious and substantial concerns regarding remediation techniques, particularly in designated historic districts, the role of the HPC in this process, potential funding mechanisms, (perhaps most importantly) the need to address a much broader range of property crimes beyond graffiti, and the common sense step of investigating policy and procedures in similar communities (small towns with historic districts such as Hastings, Red Wing and Stillwater), the group advised not moving forward with the flawed draft currently being advanced at City Hall.  All present seemed to agree that if the City leadership is determined to establish some kind of ordinance in this area that it would be wise to pull the current proposal off the table and take the time necessary to produce a more comprehensive piece.

The group then conducted an evaluation of action steps taken to-date.  Additional patrols for high-crime times have been implemented for two years and building owners believe this has had a positive impact.  Motion-triggered cameras have been recently installed but there has not been enough time to evaluate their effectiveness.  Chief Taylor offered to follow up on the lighting extension and enhancement with the City Engineering Department.

Finally, the group discussed the current discussions regarding City budget priorities.  Chief Taylor expressed his concern that the extra patrols during high-crime periods could be at risk.  It was agreed that police patrols and enhanced lighting are more effective tools than ordinances in combating vandalism.