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High Cost of Graffiti

High Cost of Graffiti

Most major metropolitan cities in the U.S. are constantly dealing with the problem of graffiti. The issue of graffiti could possibly promote a false perception that the laws protecting public and private property can be blatantly disregarded, resulting in an increase in crime, urban decay, and detriment to the enjoyment of life. These acts of graffiti, if not cleaned, repaired or deterred in a timely manner, can also give way to additional unwanted markings in the surrounding area.

 

Instances of graffiti are most often the result of various gangs posting the physical limits of their “turf”. These publicly displayed messages also serve as a type of warning to other rival gangs to stay out of their neighborhood.  These messages usually incur further graffiti from the would-be rivals. Other acts of graffiti are of the so-called underground “street art” scene, whose canvasses blanket public and private property with various designs or murals intended to be seen by the public. Both types of graffiti, however, involve the same level of criminal charges and consequences, despite their dissimilar intent.

 

Each year, cities are faced with this crime challenge, and it costs cities unspeakable amounts.  Take for instance the city of San Francisco, which spends more than $20 million to clean up graffiti found on public property. In 2017 alone, the San Francisco Public Works department responded to approximately 35,398 service requests involving instances of graffiti, and that number is expected to climb by the end of 2018.

 

Because the crime of graffiti is such a large problem, San Francisco city-council members recently passed an anti-graffiti ordinance requiring property owners to clean up graffiti on their property within thirty days. If this time frame isn’t met, those property owners face stiff fines for violating the statutes outlined in the ordinance, further adding to the overall cost incurred by graffiti abatement.

 

Graffiti costs cities and property owners high amounts of both dollars and resources, which could be used to help the community instead.

Graffiti: Fines and Community Service

Graffiti: Fines and Community Service

H2>The problem of graffiti is a prolific one, plaguing many metropolitan areas throughout the world.<>/h2> The consequences of this crime also carry a heavy toll. Destruction of private or public property, caused by the defacing nature of graffiti, is the driving force behind the criminal charges associated with those convicted of the crime. These consequences carry a strict no-tolerance policy in most cities throughout the United States, because cities want to deter graffiti.

 

Because graffiti is such a massive, unruly problem, legislation designed to prevent its occurrence has seen stiffer fines and penalties in recent years. Mandatory minimum fines can start as high as $1,000, and is punishable by no less than six months in jail, or more, depending on the severity of the damage caused by graffiti. These fines often then go to budgets allocated for graffiti abatement in cities where budgets are constrained.

 

In addition to these fines, community service is also dealt to those convicted of property defacement where the individual is assigned to clean up graffiti areas. This community service acts as both a humbling experience for the perpetrator, as well as cuts down on the cost and resources used to clean up the graffiti. Through the hard work of graffiti abatement, those convicted of graffiti charges are much less likely to become repeat offenders of this crime, helping to deter further recurrences.

 

Because most acts of graffiti and vandalism in general, are committed in areas and at times when there is less of a chance the suspect will be caught, the apprehension of suspects by law enforcement is highly unlikely; leads are very rarely followed up on.  If the graffiti was committed on a private residence or business then the responsibility of cleanup falls solely on the property owner, the victim of this type of crime.

 

Using specialized anti-graffiti surveillance cameras, suspects committing this crime can be easily identified. Evidence footage captured by these cameras is then used in cases to successfully prosecute individuals charged with property defacement. These cameras also act as a graffiti deterrent when the public is well-informed of their intention and placement.

 

Deterrence can be accomplished with community awareness that the area is being watched and hefty fines that include community service.

lumber yard graffiti

Graffiti at Lumber Yards

There may never be a shortage of walls on which a would-be graffiti vandal might adorn with his personalized signature. And because graffiti cleanup has to be meticulously maintained to discourage other potential vandals from doing the same, that wall becomes an exercise in honing that “artist’s” style. This  frustrating cycle of graffiti vandalism continues for months, and sometimes, even years.

Of the most common places graffiti-vandals target, lumber yards are seen as the ideal place to display their “art”. After all, lumber bays exterior walls are often very long as well as tall, giving graffiti vandals an opportunity to “go all out”, so to speak. The areas these lumber yards are built in are very industrial and lack any civilian oversight in late night and early morning hours. This inability to be seen committing the crime, and thus being caught, is the number one motivating factor behind most incidences of vandalism.

When a lumber yard is targeted by graffiti vandals, it then becomes the responsibility of the owner of the yard to ensure that the graffiti is cleaned up quickly. The cost of that cleanup is also absorbed by the yard owner. Many cities throughout the U.S. go so far as to impose fines on those businesses that aren’t quick enough to take care of the issue and charge the yard owner the cities’ cost to clean the graffiti up.

Graffiti prevention is often a hard-pressed issue. More lighting on problem areas, fences or bushes to prevent access, and security patrols can often deter graffiti vandals in a more common situation, but lumber yards seem to lie right in the middle of the most industrial area of a town, often resting right next to the cities railroad tracks. The sheer size of such a property can make finding a proper solution to the problem frustrating to say the least.

Graffiti Strains the City Budget

Graffiti Strains the City Budget

Cleaning up unwanted markings on public property costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year.  Some cities do not have a budget for graffiti cleanup,  therefore, funds have to be allocated from other city budgets to make up for the deficit. This puts an obvious and unnecessary strain on government-run programs, such as public services, as well as other tax funded articles like public education.

Graffiti clean-up drains a city of their resources, costing both money and manpower, which is deducted from budgets that would otherwise be used for public provisions.  Public services such as public transportation, infrastructure, and environmental protection are greatly affected if the budget for these services are tapped in order to clean up illegal markings.  The crime is even more economically strenuous if additional funds are used to pay for security watches.

Even more distressing to see, is when the public education assets are recruited to combat the graffiti budget delinquencies.  Utter chaos ensues if schools cannot adequately pay for resources,  uphold safe and orderly school campus grounds, and the hiring and sustaining of respectable teachers.  Sadly, scholarship funding may also be reduced for the less fortunate students.

The cost of cleaning up graffiti is high and in some instances a full time job. Some cities never see a shortage of unwanted markings they have to clean up. A tagging site is cleaned up one day, and in some cases, it is back the very next day. While other cities see an ebb and flow, once an area is vandalized and not taken care of, the problem will quickly grow out of control.

Though it can be costly, prevention is the best solution because in the long run it will cost the city less than the constant clean up of the graffiti problem.