Graffiti Cleanup: City's Expensive, Never-Ending Effort

Press Release

DES MOINES, IOWA — Friday, April 23, 2021 –  Secured in a construction lift over the Des Moines River, a worker uses an industrial strength power washer to scrub away the work of vandals on the University Avenue bridge.  Below the worker are two boats with members of the Des Moines Fire Department’s WET Team – they fight a swift current and strong winds to ensure his safety.

This cleanup effort today is but one of hundreds the City will tackle this year to stay ahead of graffiti vandals – it is a relentless job that doesn’t come cheap. More than $50,000 of taxpayer money goes into graffiti removal in Des Moines each year.

Today those efforts concentrated on the University Avenue bridge and required the efforts of the City’s Facilities Division, DMFD and an independent contractor.

“It’s unfortunate that year after year, we have to devote valuable resources to the removal of graffiti, but we have a commitment to residents and businesses to keep Des Moines looking the best as possible,” said Jody Rouse, a facilities administration coordinator for Des Moines.

Rouse adds that it is a big problem getting worse. In 2019, graffiti complaints increased 52 percent over the previous year. They went up another 21 percent in 2020 when the City responded to 494 reports of graffiti vandalism.

“The graffiti shows up on our trails, in City parks, on storefronts, in neighborhoods and on public structures,” Rouse added. “That makes for a never-ending job but we’ll always keep at it.”

To report graffiti, send an email to, call (515) 248-6331 or use the myDSMmobile app. For more information, go to the Graffiti Removal page on the City’s website.

Al Setka
Chief Communications Officer, City Manager’s Office 
(515) 283-4057

About the City of Des Moines
The City of Des Moines: Iowa’s capital city and local government servicing more than 217,000 residents, 52 neighborhoods, over 4,000 acres of parkland and 81 miles of trails. The City of Des Moines stands to be a financially strong city with exceptional city services, fostering an involved community in a customer-friendly atmosphere. Visit DSM.cityFacebook and Twitter for more information.