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How to Solve the Graffiti Problem

How to Solve the Graffiti Problem

Graffiti is a community problem affecting people from all walks of life.   Nuisance crimes are a problem for all cities varying in the crimes and magnitude.  Unfortunately, graffiti causes residential and business property values to be less, invites more crime, and increases urban decay.  So, what is a community to do?

The United States Department of Justice printed a pdf defining Community Policing.  In the pdf, problem solving is:

  • Scanning: Identifying and prioritizing problems
  • Analysis: Researching what is known about the problem
  • Response: Developing solutions to bring about lasting reductions in the number and extent of problems
  • Assessment: Evaluating the success of the responses
  • Using the crime triangle to focus on immediate conditions (victim/offender/location)

Once the community has identified the area or “hot spot” of graffiti, a solution to stop or deter the graffiti is the next step.  Perpetrators are dangerous so this can be tricky.  How can the community get involved but not be put at risk to gang members or violent individuals?  The best way to approach this problem is to report the area to the neighborhood enforcement agency.  Community policing requires a partnership for example between the community, public works and the police. Some communities even have volunteers for this type of crime and the support of non-profit organizations or private business.  The key is the partnership.  The law enforcement agencies are much more effective in a city where they have the help and partnership from the community.

Preventative measures should include:

  • Bright lights, which shine in the shadows
  • Legislation with high penalties
  • Community service for perpetrators
  • Using social media to ask the community for help
  • Using social media to spread the word and advertise the penalties
  • Using anti-graffiti cameras to stop and deter
Behavior Modification Stops Graffiti

Behavior Modification Stops Graffiti

Graffiti is a problem affecting many cities throughout the world. The defacement of both public and private property due to instances of graffiti, is one of the most common forms of vandalism. In most cases, graffiti is a means by which a gang displays their operating area, most often as a warning to rival gang’s to stay out. This type of gang-graffiti causes further recurrences of the crime as it invites rival gangs to display their warnings over the previous criminal’s display.

Complete abatement of gang-related graffiti is hard to accomplish as the tenacious character of gang-member attitudes are difficult to suppress. It is here that exists a never-ending cycle of repetitive graffiti cleanup, only to see the newly cleaned area fall victim to further instances of graffiti. Despite many regions in the U.S. enacting new legislation to help deal with the crime of graffiti, stiffer fines and harsher punishments have done little in the way of preventing this vandalism from occurring.

Another popular form of graffiti falls under the misdirected perception of “street” or “urban” art. While many of these artists can show varying degrees of talent, their acts are still a crime when committed without property owners’ permission.

Apart from gang-related graffiti and “street artist” graffiti, defacing property is also a crime of vandalism. Writing one’s name or drawing on a restroom stall is considered graffiti. The type of behavior that leads to this criminal act is often said to be due to boredom or an acting-out because of anger, contributing to delinquency. Behavior modification systems, such as after-school programs or regular therapy, can often show a reduction in instances of delinquent behavior.

The sudden interruption of an individual committing the crime of graffiti can lead to a transition in attitude when the individual is allowed to reflect on the consequences of their negative behavior. The graffiti camera employs on-board technology that stops the crime from being committed. The interruption of those committing the crime of graffiti, due to the graffiti camera, modifies the behavior of the individual previously engaged in the act. It is time to re-think how you are stopping graffiti.

Graffiti Prevention

Graffiti Prevention

It is no secret that most large cities are a hot-spot for graffiti.  In addition to gangs using graffiti to “mark” their territory, there is also a host of “artists” who belong to an underground “street art” scene.  What these gangs and so-called “artists” don’t seem to take into consideration, however, is the cost and resources needed to clean up their graffiti.

For instance, In 2014, Los Angeles city workers cleaned up 32.4 million square feet of graffiti, or the equivalent square footage of 562 football fields.  Due to the vast and large nature of the City of Los Angeles, this comes as no surprise.  At this rate, Los Angeles City spends roughly $7 million per year of city money to clean up graffiti– money which would be better spent on other programs that benefit the citizens.

Some cities pay graffiti abatement crews to clean up the mess daily. Although necessary, these crews are often working in vain, as the freshly cleaned-up graffiti seems to return as quickly as it’s scrubbed off or painted over, functioning as a sort of budget-money-black-hole, fueled by more than 100,000 civilian complaints of graffiti sightings.

One worthy idea devised by some cities, is to “punish” caught and convicted taggers by making them clean up their own mess and repaint the structures as a form of rehabilitation.  However, this is only working, if the graffiti vandals are caught and convicted.  What about the countless taggers that whiz by under the radar, committing graffiti on a daily basis, uncaught and therefore undisciplined?  This triggers the question, what are cities doing regarding graffiti prevention?  

It is clear, it is time for the cities to approach the problem of graffiti with a new set of eyes, due to the current situation behaving not unlike a recurring nightmare with no end in sight. The repetitive nature of current means of dealing with graffiti is like a game of cat and mouse, handled on a day-to-day and case-by-case basis.  Without a preventative plan of action and a graffiti camera, this game, sadly, is certain to continue.

Deter Graffiti in the Community

Deter Graffiti in the Community

Graffiti vandalism can happen anywhere. The unsightly crime of graffiti can have serious negative effects on the community where the act takes place. When graffiti is not quickly abated, it often sends the message that “no one cares” about the community it has defaced. This type of “careless” attitude lends itself to the public’s perception of an unsafe environment, causing concern for public safety. When a community feels their environment is not safe, these negative emotions can lead to depression and anxiety, as well as further acts of crime and violence.

When residents of a community afflicted by graffiti perceive an increase of criminal activity, it can foster the assumption that crime is on the rise. This assumption contributes to feeling less secure and fearful, with the suggested result of community members avoiding street usage and less contact with one another. Less personal contact reduces community bonds and encourages individual isolation amongst members, resulting in the community being more vulnerable to crime.

Many individuals who report living in neighborhoods with vandalism and graffiti, retain high levels of mistrust, are suspicious of others, and have fear of being victimized. In this way, graffiti can have a negative impact on a community’s perception of safety and public amenity.

The financial costs associated with acts of graffiti are astonishing. Many municipalities throughout the United States employ a team of graffiti abatement personnel, with larger cities spending upward of tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to clean publicly defaced property. Private property owners who have experienced their property being vandalized by this criminal act are forced to cover the cost of graffiti abatement from their property. Failure to do so within a specified amount of time results in a mandatory, non-compliance fine. Residents of a community that have been victimized by graffiti sometimes harbor resentment toward local law enforcement and city officials for not acknowledging the residents as being the victim of the crime.

When the members of a community are so emotionally distressed by criminal acts such as graffiti, the lasting implications can be felt for years after the crime has taken place.  As a city official, take the initiative to deter crimes such as graffiti with a graffiti camera and help the citizens gain confidence in their community.