Increase in political graffiti popping up around Summit County

Graffiti on the corner of Corinthian Circle and U.S. Highway 6 in Dillon on Aug. 1.
Photo by Antonio Olivero /

FRISCO — Summit County has seen an increase in the amount of graffiti in the area over the past several weeks, according to officials.

Graffiti is nothing new, and it’s a problem that officials in almost every community have to deal with occasionally. Though, community members and local law enforcement say the increase has been noticeable in recent months.

“To begin with, it’s inappropriate and illegal, but it’s also an eyesore, and it doesn’t paint our community in a positive light,” Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said. “We are a tourist-based community with lots of people that come up here to visit and recreate in Summit County. I know that’s probably the intent for people who are doing the graffiti, to get a lot of people to see it.

“But if these are local people doing it, they need to think about how it makes our community look. Nobody wants to see sloppy graffiti painted on public or private property, and nobody wants to be a victim of that. And while some people may just feel they’re expressing themselves, there are people that are offended by whatever message the graffiti portrays.”

While some of the graffiti has been more commonplace tagging — a stylized personal signature of the graffiti writer’s moniker — officials say recent incidents largely have been politically driven.

Jerry Del Valle, director of the Summit 911 center, said they’ve received calls on 14 separate incidences of graffiti since the beginning of June, much of it espousing pro-Black Lives Matter and anti-President Donald Trump sentiments.

“A lot of them are related to Black Lives Matter,” Del Valle said. “In one incident, there was a Black Lives Matter tag and somebody spray painted a swastika over the previous graffiti. And a lot of them are anti-Trump tagging. … It’s kind of unusual for us. It’s not generally very common in Summit County, so the fact that we’re getting more graffiti calls is weird.”

Del Valle said the graffiti hasn’t been grouped in any one location and that reports have popped up from all around the county in Dillon, Breckenridge, Frisco and Keystone.

Local law enforcement officials investigate every reported instance of graffiti, but FitzSimons said it’s rare anyone is ever identified as the offender unless they’re caught red-handed. Still, he noted police will search locally for any leads — including potential witnesses or surveillance footage of the area — and will reach out statewide to other law enforcement agencies to determine if other jurisdictions are dealing with similar graffiti that may be related.

Knowingly damaging property can be considered a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $750 fine, according to Dillon Police Chief Cale Osborn.

“I think anytime there’s vandalism of any public property, it’s definitely an issue,” Osborn said. “The cost to remediate graffiti comes back on the citizens of the town. As far as people trying to get their message out there, it’s just unfortunate people are choosing to deface public and private property to do it.”

FitzSimons said graffiti in the area tends to come in spurts and that it’s likely the current surge is a result of individuals looking to share their opinions ahead of the November election. But officials are asking community members to find better — and more legal — ways to do so.

“It’s a symbol of the time, and it’s someone expressing themselves politically,” FitzSimons said. “Ill advised is the right way to put it. People can go write a letter to the editor or something else, but defacing property isn’t the way to express yourself.”

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