Remove Graffiti and So Much More


Remove graffiti, and you could end up removing negative perceptions of your district or even vandalism itself.

In the minds of your residents, tourists and stakeholders, fun and welcoming areas of your district can quickly become “shady” and “run-down,” almost overnight. How? All it takes is a few scribbles of graffiti to create those negative perceptions that are much more difficult to erase than the graffiti itself.

Build your graffiti-fighting techniques

Chances are, you’ve felt the sting of graffiti before. Avoid getting “tagged” with negative perceptions and keep the sound reputation of your downtown intact by adding these graffiti-fighting best practices to your repertoire.

1. Act fast

Locate and remove graffiti as quickly as possible. Quick removal is important for a few reasons:

  • Allowing graffiti to linger in your district often rapidly breeds more.
  • If taggers regularly see their work removed immediately, they will likely move to another area.

Make it your goal to have all graffiti tags removed within 24 hours — before public perception even has a chance to be affected.

2. Get strategic with landscaping

Plant shrubs or thorny plants around the base of open walls, signs and other surfaces that could become graffiti targets. It makes access more difficult while still beautifying the area.

3. Start a graffiti hotline

Starting a graffiti hotline can expand your eyes and ears substantially. It allows you to enlist the help of business owners, residents and workers in your district to spot new graffiti. This can help you identify new tags immediately, which will also help you reach your 24-hour removal time.

There are plenty of ways to make this fun for your community, such as recruiting an anti-graffiti street team or awarding prizes for consistent graffiti spotting.

Learn more

Download our free Graffiti Tip Sheet for a better understanding of why, when, and where graffiti occurs as well as 5 more strategies to prevent and reduce graffiti in your city.


The Vandalism Plan

Broken windows in a vandalized building.

Say your garage was a jumbled heap of clutter. (Hypothetically speaking of course. Right?)

To really clean it well, you would have to get organized and make a plan to figure out exactly where everything needs to go and what leads it to such disarray in the first place.

Address the mayhem with structure

Vandalism is a safety and security issue that affects all communities. However, if attack vandalism with the same head-on approach you would cleaning your cluttered garage, you can make strides to keep vandalism at bay.

The key is to define the problem. Gather the hard facts and take a look at vandalism in your district from all angles.

Start with the data

Ask your team some questions to kick up the dust and really discover the full extent of vandalism in your district:

  • Find out how many vandalism incidents occur every month in your district.
  • Do you know what type of vandalism occurs most often?
  • Who are the recurring offenders in your district?

Take a thorough look at when and where vandalism frequently occurs. You will likely detect ongoing vandalism occurring in specific neighborhoods or streets.

Move from organization to action

Take your newfound data and develop some specific, tangible action items to combat the destruction of vandalism:

  • Start a neighborhood watch program in the areas you identified as frequent vandalism hot spots every month.
  • Check out the lighting in all the trouble spots in your district. Ensure there is adequate lighting, and place lights behind covers and out of reach.
  • Talk with business owners near previously vandalized property and encourage them to report incidents immediately to the police.

Make your Vandalism Plan

Develop your plan of action and communicate it to your team. Be specific, set goals, assign tasks and give deadlines. Approaching vandalism with an organized front is likely to make a big impact on preventing vandalism in your district.

Download our free Vandalism Tip Sheet to help you define your vandalism problem and discover more strategies to fight back.

How to Perform a Downtown Safety Perceptions Assessment

2 downtown safety ambassadors

If you’re considering starting a safety program for your downtown district, you know there are countless issues and constituents to consider.

One of the best places you can start is with a Downtown Safety Perceptions Assessment. This assessment allows you to take an objective look at your district, and see how it is perceived in terms of safety, where the most pressing issues are occurring, and how to allot resources. It will also help you determine the appropriate mix of security and hospitality in your district.

Use the following list to guide you in your perceptions assessment:

  • Conduct stakeholder surveys and review specific feedback. You can even consider ways to survey people who aren’t in your district.
  • Consult local law enforcement to understand specific, real crime trends.
  • Evaluate each area of your district to understand how it is used and to identify the typical “image detractors” associated with each.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t often come to your District.
  • Consider the environmental elements in each area of your district, especially during nighttime hours.
  • Is lighting adequate?
  • Is there visible graffiti?
  • Are panhandlers commonly present along the routes to parking or transit locations?
  • Is each block face “active” and vibrant?
  • Consider anecdotal feedback you’ve received about impressions or the “feel” of safety.

The above steps will give you a basic idea of the perception of safety in your district. They give you a starting place for implementing practical solutions as part of a 360° public safety program, creating the most impact for your investment.

For more safety tips and best practices, download our free guide, A 360º Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts.

Free Guide: A 360 Degree Approach to Safety for Business Improvement Districts

Free Guide: Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts

Downtown Safety Ambassador on Bicycle

Download Free Downtown Safety Guide

Downtown safety perceptions can change at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t take long for frequent, low-level crime to affect the perception of safety in your city.

Fortunately, addressing quality of life issues with a comprehensive approach to safety and security can go a long way to improving the perceptions of your business improvement district.

In our free guide, A 360° Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts, we’ll explore concepts that are part of an overall strategy to improving perceptions in downtowns. You’ll learn:

  • How to perform a safety perceptions assessment.
  • The common mistakes BIDs make when launching a safety program.
  • How to counteract negative perceptions.
  • How to develop a street-level strategy.
  • And more!

Click here to download your copy of the guide now.

Free Guide: A 360 Degree Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts

The Most Common Mistakes in Downtown Safety Programs

Downtown Street Light on Yellow

Negative perceptions regarding the safety of your downtown district are most commonly fueled by repeated, low-level quality of life crimes. By addressing these issues, you can go a long way to improve the safety of your downtown or business improvement district.

But simply throwing more money at the problem and trying cookie-cutter programs usually aren’t the most effective solutions.

In fact, there are two mistakes that many districts make as they’re setting up their downtown safety programs. By avoiding these common missteps, you can start your safety program on the right foot.

Mistake #1: Not Defining Your Mission

A common mistake many improvement districts make when launching a safety program is not defining exactly what it is they want the safety program to accomplish.

For example, consider a few potential objectives:

  • Proactively engage the public to reinforce positive perceptions.
  • Provide a high level of outreach to the homeless.
  • Provide a proactive response to issues related to nightlife.

Chances are your stakeholders are interested in one or more of these, but it’s important to define what the core mission of your safety program will be. All too often safety programs are deployed and their value comes into question in the absence ofclearly defined goals.

Mistake #2: Not Identifying Your Target Audience

All too often downtown organizations get caught up focusing their safety related resources on the very small portion of the population that negatively affects perceptions, whether it is street performers, panhandlers or homeless persons. 

While engaging perception issues is critical, the needs of the vast majority of a district’s user groups are overlooked under this approach.

Focusing on creating a fantastic district experience for visitors should be a critical part of all safety programs. Attention is drawn to the safety program and a positive impression is created when a visitor has a pleasant interaction with a friendly, highly engaging safety Ambassador. Many times this positive interaction is an essential element in counteracting a negative experience with a quality of life issue beyond your control, such as an encounter with a non-aggressive panhandler.

Customized Solutions

Because your downtown district has its own safety challenges and risk factors, developing a safety program customized to your needs is essential. By clearly defining your mission and identifying your target audience, you can avoid the common pitfalls of downtown safety.

For more safety tips and best practices, download our free guide, A 360º Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts.

Free Guide: A 360 Degree Approach to Safety for Business Improvement Districts

3 Ways to Make Your Downtown Safer

Safety Ambassador Downtown on Bicycle

Best practices and strategies for ensuring a safe Downtown Improvement District have evolved. Those districts who are “in the know” have evolved their safety approach from a reactive to a proactive approach. So what defines an engaged, proactive safety program? For starters, the program must address security challenges from multiple fronts. Read on to learn three ways you can make your downtown safer.

1. Implement a Safety Ambassador Program

One of the best assets in a comprehensive safety program is the presence of uniformed Ambassadors. They act as a crime deterrent and give peace of mind to district visitors. Most importantly, with well-thought-out, customized training, they can proactively engage the low-level quality of life offenses, which the police often don’t have the time to tend to. Safety Ambassador programs, when well positioned, can be an asset to local police by:

  • Better leveraging the visibility of police (more eyes on the district).
  • Watching for specific persons or activities.
  • Disseminating information to stakeholders.
  • Using technology to help police prioritize the issues important to downtown.

2. Complete Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

On the surface, cleaning and maintenance might not seem to have much to do with safety. But take a moment to imagine an area with graffiti-covered walls, overgrown weeds, broken fixtures and trash. There’s a good chance you don’t feel very safe or secure in this area. To combat this negative perception, focus on the following cleaning and maintenance tasks:

  • Trash – Trash should be removed immediately.
  • Graffiti – Graffiti sends a strong signal that an area does not receive attention and is therefore unsecure. Graffiti and nuisance tags (stickers) should be removed immediately.
  • Landscaping – Landscaping should be trimmed so that it cannot be used as hiding places.
  • Lighting – Adequate lighting serves as a natural deterrent to criminals, and increases the effectiveness of both ambassadors and CCTV by improving visibility. It should also be laid out uniformly, so that drivers do not pass rapidly fromlight to dark areas without time for the eye to adjust.

3. Emphasize Hospitality

Proactive engagement of public concerns has replaced standing around waiting for something to happen. Additionally, safety programs focused on continual public engagement can be highly effective in offsetting negative perceptions or experiences outside of the district’s control. This hospitality-focused approach should be woven into every aspect of training, and done so with an emphasis on consistency.

Downtown Safety Solutions

There are a variety of things to think through when evaluating and addressing district safety. For more tips and best practices, download our free guide, A 360º Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts.

3 Steps to Eliminate Graffiti in Your Downtown District

3 Steps to Eliminate Graffiti

The cost to eliminate graffiti to your downtown district is huge. Not only does it cost business and property owners money in property damage, it costs the community by having a negative impact on the environment. It intimidates residents, deters tourists and shoppers, and invites other vandals and crime in general.

Your district cannot afford to let graffiti be an issue. Read below for three steps to developing a comprehensive graffiti management program for your downtown district.

1. Eradicate

Remove graffiti as quickly as possible. Allowing graffiti to linger in the area can rapidly breed more. Also, if taggers regularly see their work removed immediately, they will eventually move to another area. Make it your goal to have all graffiti tags removed within 24 hours.

2. Enforce

Work with your local law enforcement to ensure taggers are penalized. Partner with your local government to advocate for laws pertaining to graffiti. These laws should include penalties for those who do the tagging. Property owners must also be required to remove graffiti in a timely fashion.

3. Educate

One of the most successful, yet least used strategies, in graffiti management is education. Let the community know that graffiti is a serious problem. Inform them about what is being done to stop it. Finally, educate them on what they can do to help.

>Your Turn

What steps has your district taken to eliminate graffiti?

What tactics has your district used to educate the community about the graffiti issue?

Download our free graffiti tip sheet to explore options to eliminate graffiti in your downtown.

Downtown District Safety

Downtown safety ambassador patrolling on bike

There are many issues that can negatively affect how people think about your district. An effective safety program not only reports the unnecessary behaviors, but incorporates strategies to address every detrimental issue your district may face. Some of the key ingredients in creating a dynamic safety/security program include:


Safety programs are most effective when they move beyond reporting to police, and become a valuable resource to local law enforcement. Our programs can better leverage the limited time of the officers in your district by directing them to not only specific situations, but alert them to trends. Additionally, the safety program should be a connector that can integrate the efforts of not only law enforcement, but the many security professionals in your district.

Due to the high visibility of staff and their uniformed presence, security staff will undoubtedly spend a good majority of their time providing information, directions, and hospitality to your downtown visitors, it’s imperative that a strong focus be placed on serving the public through employee selection, training, quality assurance, and the overall culture of your downtown program.

With a Smile

Smiles have replaced mirrored sunglasses, and proactive engagement of public concerns has replaced standing around waiting for something to happen. We can show you how an attitude of “courteous yet firm” can help your district create new standards and change behaviors. We’ve long believed that as our cities struggle with image issues an Ambassador programs focused on continual public engagement can be highly effective in offsetting negative perceptions or experiences outside of the district’s control.


Our company was created to solely serve the needs of improvement districts; we are not a security or janitorial company. Since creating Block by Block, we’ve been exposed to nearly every possible issue facing an urban environment. Through our passion for downtowns and urban areas, we’ve been able to create protocol and training to address the needs of our urban centers.

Hundreds of thousands of hours of on-street experience and real-life situations have been woven into the training that prepares Block by Block Ambassadors for their role in serving your district. To make a Block by Block program not just good, but great, we’ve developed ongoing training for all staff members. All Ambassadors, regardless of location, receive ongoing training in order to make sure their knowledge on your district and skills stay sharp.

These are just a few of the elements that create a fantastic Block by Block program. If you’re ready to make your downtown a safer place, get in touch with our contact form!

Social Services Outreach in Downtowns

Social Outreach Ambassador assisting homeless man

No matter what size your city, you’ve probably experienced the negative perceptions that come with the concerns of homelessness and quality of life issues, such as panhandling, drinking in public, and loitering. Homelessness often contributes to the perception of downtowns being unsafe; however, what many people fail to realize is that not all homeless people commit crimes, and homelessness itself isn’t a crime. We believe in the effectiveness of addressing these issues while still maintaining a high regard for dignity, respect, and social responsibility. Some of our strategies include the following:

Social Service Outreach Professionals

In a number of cities, we employ trained social workers to serve as coordinators of overall team efforts and to work with local outreach partners to provide strategic case level management of the most visible homeless persons in our districts. These professionals can provide training as to what resources are available to the homeless in form of food, shelter, vocational training, addiction services, and health care needs.

Social Service Outreach Ambassadors

Within our safety programs we’ve created Ambassador positions that have a primary role of engaging homeless persons to establish individual needs, and working through local Outreach Agencies to connect these persons with available services. This approach has been very successful in reducing the number of homeless on the streets in many of our cities.

Training and Ownership for All

You never know who will form a bond with a person in need. All front line Ambassadors, both safety and cleaning Ambassadors, are trained in social service issues and how to connect a person with the help they need, as well as building relationships with the homeless through daily interaction.

While we do offer social service outreach to the homeless, there are many homeless persons who choose to live their life on the streets. In this case, Ambassadors are trained to closely monitor the homeless individual to ensure their compliance with all local laws and ordinances.

If you’re ready to create a more safe and friendly downtown environment, get in touch with our contact form!

Downtown Landscaping

Downtown Ambassador watering plants

Landscaping doesn’t just change the way a district looks, but also how people treat and react to your district, and each other. One of the most powerful ways to instantly transform the street level atmosphere of a district is through the addition of the greenery and color of a landscaping program. Whether it’s hundreds of hanging baskets throughout your district or a handful of planters in a central gathering spot, landscaping can instantly change how people feel about and treat their surroundings.

Landscaping services most often include:

  • Planting of ground level beds or planters
  • Planting and hanging of baskets
  • Ongoing watering and fertilizing
  • Weeding of beds and ‘dead heading’ of plants


Through our history of serving districts, we’ve become more proficient at not only landscape maintenance but also on the selection and configuration of planted areas. The composition of your landscaping should be well thought out taking into consideration not only seasonality and climate, but more importantly how the creative deployment of flower types and colors can create a unique character through individual parts of your district.

 Ongoing Care

Your investment into your landscaping program is a significant one. Most often the largest cost associated with a landscaping program is not in the plants themselves, but in their ongoing watering and maintenance. Through planning and experience we can help you allocate the right amount of resources to maximize the vibrancy of your landscape program.

 For more information about improving your downtown’s appearance, get in touch by filling out ourcontact form!