There’s nothing like a smooth, light-colored and slightly blemished wall to entice the affections of graffiti vandals — unless it’s a wall that’s already got some graffiti on it.

That insight and many others on how to avoid being tagged are included in a newly launched anti-graffiti website created by the Portland Police Department as part of its crackdown on the costly nuisance.

The site also includes an online reporting system so city officials can learn quickly when graffiti appears. Cleaning it swiftly is important, to prevent new graffiti and also because it discourages taggers, said Trish McAllister, the neighborhood prosecutor assigned to the Police Department.

Removing graffiti within 48 hours is ideal, the website says, though it may take several cleanings to keep taggers away.

Within an hour of the website being publicized by a Portland Downtown District email to members, McAllister had already been alerted to some new graffiti on Pearl Street.

“It’s just a start, but I’m thrilled it’s up and running,” she said of the site.

The website is the latest tool in the city’s effort to crack down on graffiti. The City Council passed an ordinance in June that makes it a civil infraction to apply graffiti or possess graffiti tools like spray paint or large tip markers absent a legitimate reason to possess them.

On Monday, a Portland man and a Scarborough woman were the first two people charged under the new ordinance. Their court date is Sept. 8. The pair was accused of tagging two street signs and two Postal Service mailboxes.

The city is stepping up enforcement, McAllister said.

“We’re certainly targeting, through police efforts, heavily tagged areas to try to catch the taggers in the process,” she said. “We’re working with building owners to coordinate those efforts.”

Graffiti is not only unsightly, it invites more vandalism and can lead to more serious crime because it conveys a message that people do not care about the area or what happens there, McAllister said.

The website, police.portlandmaine.gov/graffiti.asp, includes tips like what surfaces are attractive to vandals — smooth, light-colored, regular paint and patched and dirty — and which are unattractive — rough, dark-colored, clean and coated with anti-graffiti paint.

Another pair of tips: Use clinging plants like ivy on vulnerable walls and plant dense thorny bushes in front of walls prone to graffiti vandalism.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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