Business owners can pay price for defaced buildings

Lawton_Some businesses in Lawton are being forced to repaint their buildings on a regular basis - because they have been covered with graffiti.  Although the building owners may have nothing to do with the vandalism, they still are required to clean it up.  If the city finds graffiti on your property, you have ten days to clean it up, because the city says it cannot do cleanup on private property.

Business owners say they are caught between a rock and a hard place.  They don't like the tagging or the fines, so they try to clean it up the mess as quickly as they can.  Business owner Patrick Mahsetky caught one graffiti artist right in the act.  "I asked her what she was doing, she said, 'Nothing.' I said, 'Yes you are, that word wasn't up there on that fence just a few minutes ago,'" he said.

Mahsetky said he couldn't believe his eyes when he watched the girl vandalize his property at the corner of NW Cache and Sheridan more than a week ago.  She ran off, but left her markings, and an angry business owner behind.  His isn't the only business suffering damage.  Bill Williams owns property directly across from the Church of Christ, and several of his walls have been vandalized.  "They're destroying private property," he said.

Some of the graffiti contains words so distasteful that 7News declined to air them, and Williams says he would offer a reward to catch the vandals.  "I'd like for it to stop," he said.  "If there's a way to stop it, I'd contribute monetarily to that."  He says some of the graffiti has been up for a few weeks, and cold temperatures have prevented him from cleaning it up as quickly as he would like.  He did hire a painter to help.

Mahsetky says he will watch his property much more closely for any sign of trouble.  While the city has a timeline to clean graffiti, officials at the City Services Division says they are willing to work with property owners to give them the necessary time they need.  The city says it rarely issues citations for graffiti to business owners.  When it does the fines can reach as high as $750.  The City of Lawton says it processed 14,000 citizen complaints about graffiti in 2008.