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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
How to Stop Graffiti

How to Stop Graffiti

The crime of graffiti is an ever-growing problem in every major city in the United States. You can easily spot this public eye-sore lining the once blank walls of businesses, in our alley-ways, on trash cans, and even mailboxes. More often than not, the most common form of graffiti is placed in areas meant to designate a specific gang’s territory, acting both as a sort of physical marker and as a warning to other neighboring gangs to stay out. This type of graffiti is most often found in the more metropolitan areas, or areas of a city that’s been prey to urban decay.

Another common form of graffiti is that of a “street artist”. These so-called artist’s don’t have any gang affiliation and often spray-paint large murals depicting some sort of ethnic or urban scene in public areas or on private property. While many of these “street artists” can display some artistic credibility, their choice of canvas is just as illegal as those of gang graffiti artists.

Of the many problems that the crime of graffiti can cause, the cost and resources of graffiti abatement can quickly add up. In 2014, the city of Los Angeles, California paid $7 million to clean up roughly 32.4 million square feet of graffiti-adorned public areas. This money had to be culled from other budgets that may have benefitted other public programs run by the city. Once these instances of graffiti are removed, they quickly reappear moments later.

Because recurrences of graffiti happen so often, the problem is met best with a means of quick abatement and followed by measures designed to prevent its repetitive qualities. While the crime of graffiti happens most often at night and when the possibility of being seen is low, ideally-placed anti-graffiti cameras are an excellent substitute when civilian or security personnel oversight can’t be accomplished or afforded. In addition to these graffiti cameras, utilizing social media sites, such as Facebook, to help identify suspects and educate the public on the consequences of graffiti are steps in the right direction to help stifle the occurrence and recurrence of the crime of 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.