Have you or your family ever been victimized by taggers or gang-related graffiti? Have you seen what graffiti does to a neighborhood? It isn't pretty.
Less than a minute - that's about all it takes for a tagger to illegally mark up someone's property. That's also about the same amount of time it'll take an officer to slap on a pair of handcuffs if you're caught in the act.
Graffiti is defined as permanently marking, painting, drawing on, etching, engraving or scratching property without the owner's permission. Graffiti is classified as a separate property offense under the law. It carries a punishment range that is tougher than criminal mischief. Penalties range from a Class B misdemeanor to first-degree felony. These penalties are based on the amount of damage caused by the graffiti.
Bottom line - graffiti by definition is a crime. It is never legal.
Graffiti places a high cost on a neighborhood because it is easily visible and expensive to remove, and emotionally it is seen as a signal of deeper problems in the community. Problems like gang violence and drug activity.
Get involved. Don't let graffiti take over your neighborhood. Be a part of a graffiti abatement program in your community.
Graffiti is often the first sign that gang activity is in your community. Graffiti may claim gang territory in schoolyards and parks, store walls, fences, retaining walls, street signs and any other surface. Gangs will use graffiti and gang symbols as a way to let the community and other gang members know that they are active in the area.
Of greater concern than the property damage is the random violence that may come with gang graffiti. When a neighborhood is marked with graffiti, the entire area and its citizens become targets as well.
Graffiti taggers seek fame or a sense of glory through graffiti as well. Their reason for tagging may be different from that of a street gang, but they're still vandalizing property and breaking the law.
Taggers try to make their graffiti highly visible like tagging on trains, billboards, or buildings in heavy populated areas, or on dangerous locations such as freeway overpasses or water towers. More important to the tagger is the "Life of the Tag" - the longer it stays up, the more successful. That's one reason why removing the tag is so important.
Don't be fooled into believing that graffiti is a crime with no victims. Try explaining that to the business owner down the street whose window has been etched to the tune of $2,000 worth of damage, or worse yet, your own family who just wasted a day removing this art from the fence around your own home.
Graffiti is not art. It's a crime for which you can be arrested. If you have talent, why don't you learn about real Careers in art.
Report graffiti you find in your neighborhood to the police. If the graffiti is on school grounds, report it to school officials. Don't accept graffiti as a problem that you just have to live with.
Take action: graffiti
Don't accept graffiti as a problem that you just have to live with. Get involved. Make a stand for your community. Help keep graffiti cleaned up.
If you fear retaliation or don't feel it's safe to remove gang graffiti yourself, contact city or county officials about other options or help finding graffiti abatement program in your area.
Report graffiti in your neighborhood to the police. Report graffiti on school grounds to school officials.
Graffiti needs to be painted over as quickly as possible after it appears. It can be removed by anyone who has the property owner's permission.
What can your community do?
You can adopt a block or bus stop and remove graffiti from newspaper boxes, wooden utility poles, mailboxes and phone booths on a regular basis.
You can organize a Neighborhood Clean-up Day or volunteer in a Graffiti Removal Day. In some programs, if your neighborhood provides the volunteers, the established program will provide the paint, cleaning supplies, training and supervision.
Does your city have a local graffiti ordinance? Some cities have additional restrictions and resources that you should become familiar with.
Share information with neighbors, business owners and friends in your community. You do not have to live with illegally painted gang signs. It's your community and your school, and the law is on your side.