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Persistent one-word graffiti spree around Arlington is vexing neighbors

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) All around Columbia Pike — and increasingly elsewhere in Arlington County — one graffiti message has been popping up: “hate.”

At first, it seemed to be concentrated around a stalled development project on the Pike, but now, the graffiti has been seen farther north in Cherrydale. It appears not to be confined to Arlington, either, as it was spotted earlier this year in Georgetown.

The persistent tagging is troubling a number of Arlington residents. It is also vexing those who report not seeing action taken after using Arlington County Police Department’s channels for recourse, including a non-emergency phone number and an online reporting system.

The most recent tag was on the building that is home to the Columbia Pike Partnership and the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington at 3045B Columbia Pike.

“We are checking camera footage,” museum president Scott Taylor told ARLnow, noting this is the first time the building has been tagged with the now ubiquitous slogan. “Police have been notified… We are saddened.”

Alyssa Trembeczki, who lives near Bob & Edith’s Diner, has seen the graffiti while out for runs and bike rides around the Pike, though she also reported seeing it at the corner of Langston Blvd and Military Road.

“I would love for whoever is doing this to stop since it’s making me feel unsafe in my own neighborhood and I’m sure others feel the same way,” she said.

She said she learned from police officers that whoever is tagging property is targeting places without security cameras.

Resident Tim Starker says he called the non-emergency number in early July to report one incident he noticed on S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike — and then twice more — but received no follow-up at any time.

“After about six weeks of no remediation, I emailed the [Arlington County] Board and got a canned response from a staff member advising to use the graffiti reporting function on the website,” he said. “The staffer eventually told me it was on private property so they had limited options.”

Another anonymous tipster, sharing photos from of similar graffiti in Cherrydale, echoed the dilemma of going to the county for issues on private property.

“This has been reported to Arlington County via their website but not sure they can intervene since these are private building(s) and utilities,” the tipster said.

Starker says he is waiting on a response from any County Board member, which he says is surprising.

“It’s an easy opportunity to address a constituent and at least explain the problem,” he said, noting the graffiti on S. George Mason Drive still there.

Later this morning, a county spokesperson said the graffiti at the location had been removed.

Tackling the graffiti and finding the culprit have been top priorities for Penrose Civic Association President Alex Sakes. He says last week, he met with ACPD, County Manager Mark Schwartz, Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey for the second time to discuss solutions.

Sakes says ACPD recently completed a study, specifically for Penrose, about how to prevent crime through what he calls “environmental design.”

“We’re working on getting security cameras and motion-sensing lighting available to our Columbia Pike businesses… and a registry for existing security footage and data for current businesses that ACPD needs,” he said. “I’m beyond ready to get this stuff funded, purchased and installed. [I’m] tired of all these meetings.”

County Board spokesman David Barrera said the Board is aware of the graffiti concerns, noting they are most prevalent in Penrose and along Columbia Pike.

“The County Board has not received many complaints or reports of graffiti from residents directly, but these instances of vandalism are concerning to Board Members and have been a subject in ongoing meetings with community leaders, including the Columbia Pike Partnership,” he said. “Our current focus has been educating residents and business owners on reporting graffiti and where to report depending on whether it occurs on private or public property — a key distinction in the County’s ability to address the issue immediately.”

Barrera said the offices of the Board and County Manager “will continue encouraging residents to use these resources to help our departments investigate, address, and collaborate with private property owners to remove identified graffiti.”

In a statement, ACPD said it graffiti on private property can be reported online using the Police Reporting System.

“Our detectives review the reports and conduct follow-up including providing links for submitting photos and/or videos to our evidence management system that may assist in the investigation of these incidents,” ACPD said. “For graffiti located on public property, a service request to remove the graffiti can be made online through Arlington County’s Report-a-Problem portal. If you witness an in-progress incident, please call our non-emergency line at 703-558-2222.”

ACPD did not say whether it has seen tips or complaints specific to the “hate” message.

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