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Art or vandalism: Farragut buildings tagged with graffiti

Taggers are on the loose in Farragut.

Kohl’s in Farragut was the latest property to be “tagged,” another word for a building that has been vandalized by having graffiti painted on it.

Kohl’s store management couldn’t comment on the matter stating corporate policy prevented comment.

According to an incident report Kohl’s officials filed with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, someone climbed over several lower rooftops between the hours of 11 p.m. and midnight, Wednesday, Dec. 27, and spraypainted the side of the Kohl’s building.

Kohl’s isn’t the first building to serve as a canvas for would-be graffiti artists. The former Kmart building off Kingston Pike has long served as a place where graffiti vandals could ply their trade. The back, side and front of the building showcase their work for residents and visitors to see.

The back and side of abandoned buildings in Farragut Towne Square also bear the marks of vandals.

“Our officers have examined the graffiti and they have determined it is not gang related,” said Capt. Ben Harkins of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. “We have investigators looking into the incidents. They don’t have any suspects at this time, but they are following up on some leads.”

Graffiti is classified as vandalism, a Class A misdemeanor if damages are less than or equal to $500, and is punishable by 11-months 29-days in the county detention center. Vandalism with damages of more than $500 is considered a Class E felony with up to two years of imprisonment.

“I think the town needs to do something about the graffiti,” said Dorothy Miller, a Farragut resident. “It makes the town look bad.”

Unfortunately, the town is limited in its ability to respond to the matter.

“If the graffiti is on private property it is the responsibility of the individual property owner to maintain that property in accordance with the adopted building codes,” said assistant town administrator Gary Palmer. “The code officers will work with the private property owners where they can but it is solely the property owners’ responsibility.  I would encourage these owners to file police reports and insurance claims where applicable.  If the graffiti is on public property, the town will naturally be responsible for maintenance.”

Vice Mayor Mike Haynes said graffiti on any building affects everyone in the community.

“As you know, Farragut works very hard at the aesthetics of the community, like signs and proper entrances,” he said. “We work hard on our parks and our greenways. We feel all those things contribute to the quality of life enjoyed in Farragut. Any time someone defaces another’s property, not only is it a crime against that property owner, it’s an affront to the rest of the public because it visually affects them.”

Alderman Tom Rosseel said he didn’t think there would be any permanent damage from graffiti.

“I don’t think it [graffiti] has any major impact on the town as long as we can get the private property owners to clean it up,” he said.

Haynes said the unsightly former Kmart building will be eliminated as part of the Blanchard and Calhoun Kroger development. Ingles corporate officials, owners of Farragut Towne Square, didn’t respond to any phone calls or e-mail.

Haynes and Rosseel both encouraged any citizens with information about vandalism to contact the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Tom Salter, executive director for Keep Knoxville Beautiful, said graffiti affects everyone in a community.

“In a community like ours, the cost of cleaning up graffiti runs tens of thousands, minimum,” he said. “Graffiti is vandalism and Keep America Beautiful rejects the idea it is artistic expression. It’s property damage.”

Salter said the best thing a business that has been tagged could do is to remove the graffiti as soon as possible.


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