Portland will now pay $250 to tipsters who help convict people responsible for graffiti.

The city established the reward fund in partnership with Portland Downtown as part of a push to prevent graffiti. People who see vandalism in progress are encouraged to call 911 or 874-8575.

“Do not approach a graffiti vandal,” a city news release states. “Applicants for a reward must disclose their name and be willing to testify as a witness. Donations to the reward fund are gladly accepted to ensure the longevity of the program.”

Richard Bianculli Jr., Portland’s neighborhood prosecutor, handles cases against people who have caused less than $2,000 in damage as a civil offense under the city’s anti-graffiti ordinance. A judge can order a $500 penalty, payment of the cost to repair the property damage and a minimum of 25 hours of community service under the ordinance.

The neighborhood prosecutor refers cases that involve more than $2,000 in damage to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office. The charge would be aggravated criminal mischief, a Class C felony that can carry a prison sentence of up to five years. Bianculli said a judge will typically order three months to one year in jail, as well as restitution and community service.

The city provided the seed money for the reward fund, but Bianculli said he hopes donations will keep it going.

“Sometimes having that reward will provide that extra incentive for (people) to step up to the plate and make sure that person does get prosecuted,” Bianculli said.

Portland is continuing other programs to discourage or remove graffiti.

The city will accept applications from artists who want to paint five additional utility boxes, which are frequent targets of vandalism.

In 2016, the city hired a group of local painters who turned five utility boxes into works of public art. The new project will again be funded through $1,000 donations from both NBT Bank and Port Property Management. The Portland Police Department also has contributed $500. The artist stipend will be $500, higher than the $300 offered in the first round.

The deadline for submissions for the second round of paintings is Sept. 15, and applications are available on the city’s website.

Since 2015, more than 700 graffiti markings have been removed because of complaints through the city’s See Click Fix application.

The public works staff removes graffiti on public property, and the LearningWorks Graffiti Busters team removes markings on private property. That crew started last year, closing out more than 170 complaints. So far this year it has cleaned up 150 tags across the city.

Bianculli also works with property owners to deter graffiti with murals and more lighting.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

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