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Posted on: March 30, 2023

Tracking down taggers: Billings Code Enforcement building case files on serial graffiti vandals

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It isn’t hard to find graffiti scattered throughout the City of Billings.

Mindlessly placed on personal property and public structures, the markings victimize members of our community.

“Graffiti vandalism is anybody marking, painting, writing on someone else’s property or public property without permission,” explained Code Enforcement Officer Todd Morgan.

Historically, the code enforcement division’s graffiti removal efforts went toward notifying property owners. But now with a larger and fully staffed department, they’re pursuing prosecution of suspects.

“We have to get this stopped. It’s making our city look shabby and degraded. It doesn’t give that happy, positive community feel. And that’s what we’re striving for in code enforcement,” said Morgan.

Officer Morgan has roughly 60 open graffiti cases he’s tracking and documenting.

Most of them are connected to repeat offenders. 

“As he collects all that information and data, we start to develop suspect information and figure out who these taggers are. Then we'll already have information packaged for the Billings Police Department to file charges or request a warrant,” explained Tina Hoeger, code enforcement division manager.

Code enforcement is working in conjunction with the Billings Police Department’s newest division, the community service officers.

“As long as a property owner reports the vandalism, a CSO will go out, photograph it, make a police report, and document it. They will send us that information so we can keep track of it,” said Hoeger.

With increased manpower, code enforcement is asking the community to report vandalism every time it happens.

“A property owner might ask, ‘Why should I take care of this? It’s just going to get tagged again.’ I say, it’s the little things that make a big difference. If you take care of it now, chances are it might be tagged again in the future, but it might not be as quickly. Keep covering it up, and eventually the taggers do move on. It’s a proven fact,” Morgan explained.

Vandalism graffiti can be reported by calling the Billings Police Department at (406)657-8200. Or a form can be filled out online by clicking here

According to city code, property owners have 10 days after receiving notice to remove the graffiti. Refusal may result in a citation.  

“When I send these notices out to these property owners, they are the victim. The whole process gives everybody a bad taste in their mouth. We’re willing to work with everyone involved. We’re not trying to victimize the victim,” Morgan explained.

Ten days might not sound like much time for removal, but allowing the graffiti to stay any longer only welcomes more vandalism.

“This is what happens when it’s up too long, it just starts growing like moss on a riverbank,” Morgan said.

When someone’s property is tagged, they receive a letter from code enforcement stating how much time they have to remove the graffiti. It also includes photos of the vandalism and a brochure that lists the city code, along with local private contractors that the property owner can hire for graffiti abatement.

More information on the Code Enforcement Division can be found on the City of Billings website by clicking here

For general code enforcement questions, you can call (406)237-6146.

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