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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Graffiti seizes Koreatown, number of complaints surges 45% in a year

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Graffiti in Los Angeles Koreatown shows no signs of abating. The Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC), which contracts with the city to remove graffiti in Koreatown, has been unable to keep up with the surge in graffiti removal requests.

According to KYCC, graffiti is plastered on storefronts, apartments, single-family homes, and construction sites throughout Koreatown. Particularly in the busy areas of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, the exterior walls of buildings and partitions of construction sites are covered in graffiti.

On June 6, a KYCC graffiti removal staff member said, “Seven field staff members are removing graffiti seven days a week at an average of 30 cases per person per day, but we still can’t handle it.”

Graffiti on a construction wall in Los Angeles Koreatown [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

“In the past, when a complainant asked the city to remove graffiti, it was done within 48 hours. But recently, there have been too many that we can’t keep up with them.”

In Koreatown, graffiti is reportedly done primarily by youth and young adults on private property or public facilities to convey a specific message. Some gangs also use graffiti to mark their territory.

Councilmember Heather Hutt of Council District 10, whose district includes Koreatown, told KCAL News, “I think it has to do with the density. Koreatown is a transportation corridor. It’s a place that can be seen, and their goal is to put a message that people can see.”

The problem is that graffiti in Los Angeles Koreatown has surged dramatically and too quickly. According to MyLA311, a complaint service, there were 2,855 requests for graffiti removal in the Wilshire Center-Koreatown neighborhood in the first quarter. That’s a 45% increase from the 1,969 requests during the same period last year.

There were also about 9,000 requests for graffiti removal just in Koreatown last year, a 13% increase from the previous year. Graffiti in Los Angeles generally has also increased by 25% over the past two years. Graffiti is concentrated on Western Avenue, Wilshire Boulevard, Vermont Avenue, and Beverly Boulevard.

In response, Councilmember Hutt said she would ask the City Council to increase funding for graffiti removal in Los Angeles Koreatown. The plan is to increase patrols on major streets and hire more staff for KYCC’s graffiti removal team.

KYCC is also looking to address structural issues. “Koreatown has a severe lack of parks, so it is difficult for youth to find a place to be outside,” said a KYCC graffiti removal staff member. “We will hold a ‘Youth Environmental Beautification Education’ workshop later this month to prevent youth and young adults from seeking fun through graffiti.”

To report and request the removal of illegal graffiti, visit the City of Los Angeles’ civil service website (lacity.gov/myla311), mobile app (MyLA311), or call 311.

BY HYOUNGJAE KIM, HOONSIK WOO [kim.ian@koreadaily.com]