Frequently Asked Questions 

Do you favor graffiti exhibits sponsored by art museums and municipalities? What Can You Tell Me About NoGraf Members?
What are the types of graffiti?  
How is one type distinguished from others?
Don't "free walls" provide an effective alternative for youth creativity, Thus reducing graffiti vandalism?
Why should parents be concerned that their children are involved in graffiti?  
Isn't it merely a passing youthful transgression?
What are the sentiments of graffiti victims?
What is "hip-hop"?  How does graffiti fit in? What elements should be contained in an effective municipal graffiti program?
Corporations That Help Promote Graffiti Crimes  

 

What are the types of graffiti?  How is one type distinguished from others?
Two categories account for most graffiti in US Communities: (1) street gang graffiti and (2) hip-hop or "tagger" graffiti.  Most laymen immediately think of street gangs when they think of graffiti.  But in terms of damage and number of incidents, this is a much smaller category than hip-hop.  The two categories differ from one another from several standpoints:

Gang graffiti tends to be territorial (i.e., confined to "the Hood"), while Hip-Hop graffiti is regional;

Gangs use graffiti to mark territory, intimidate, or recruit, and they incorporate gang symbols (stars, pitchforks, etc) in their graffiti.   Hip-hop taggers use graffiti to achieve what the subculture calls "fame"; they operate in "crews" (3-5 person teams), which usually have a unique, 3-digit name (e.g., "ATS", standing for the "As They Sleep" Crew; "CMW" standing for the "Chicago's Most Wanted" Crew); each member of the crew usually has a unique graffiti moniker (e.g., "KORL" or "WERK" or "JEDI").  Thus, a vandalism site is typically marked with one or more monikers plus the crew name (initials).  Within the subculture, there is a hierarchy of graffiti: (1) simple tags, in a single color; (2) throw-ups (bubble-type graffiti, with at least two colors); and (3) pieces (or masterpieces, the most complex).  In general, the higher up the hierarchy a tagger goes, the more fame.  Also, for pieces, the quality of the "art" comes to play. Additional "fame" points are accrued for applying graffiti to a high place (top of a building or a billboard); these are called "heavens" tags.  Hip-hop taggers have been known to use grappling     hooks or steal bucket trucks to achieve a "heavens" tag.

Gang graffiti is incidental to other activities (violence, drugs), and the application of graffiti is often an entry-level assignment.  For Hip-hop taggers, graffiti is the main focus of the individuals, and it often becomes addictive behavior. Gang graffiti is locally organized.  While Hip-hop might also be local, the vandals network through pro-graffiti magazines and on the Internet. (e.g., there have been instances of German vandals, communicating on the Internet with NYC counterparts, eventually resulting in the Germans flying to NYC, participating in several "bombing runs" (large-scale application of graffiti to an area) there, then the NYC counterparts returning to Germany with their friends for more of the same there.) There are over 1,000 hip-hop graffiti sites on the Internet!  Gang graffiti is often not prominent (e.g., on a garage door in "the Hood").  Hip-hop graffiti is, by design, prominent and very visible.  The vandals cannot achieve "fame" if their "art" is not seen.  Thus, it is applied to billboards, traffic light control boxes, freeway signs, downtown buildings….places where many will see it. By some estimates, gang graffiti only accounts for 10% of the national graffiti problem, whereas hip-hop accounts for 90%.  It is estimated that US municipalities spend approximately $15 billion per year to respond to graffiti vandalism. 

For law enforcement, many avenues, not feasible or practical for gang vandals,  are open with hip-hop vandals, including license plates, special surveillance equipment, search warrants, conspiracy law,  and expert testimony.

Don't "free walls" provide an effective alternative for youth creativity, thus reducing graffiti vandalism?
The NoGraf Network salutes those community members who would like to harness creative and alternative methods for the sake of character-building in youth.  However, given the history of "free walls" in US communities, the Network recommends against this alternative method.  They simply do not work!

The "free wall" solution ignores hip-hop subculture mores and tagger motivation.  Taggers do graffiti vandalism in order to win "fame" within the subculture.  In general, the greater the number of tags, the greater the "fame" for a given vandal.  Thus, if a community establishes a "free wall", graffiti vandals will probably place their moniker there.  But they will also put the same monikers, as graffiti, throughout the community, because this gives them "fame". The NoGraf Network has actively sought to identify communities where "free walls" have worked.  We have found none.  Their failure is manifested in two ways:   (1) as mentioned     above, in general, the same youth who tag at the free wall continue to place the same tags, as vandalism, throughout the community.  (2) There is usually a "spillover" effect around the "free wall", resulting in all adjacent property being tagged, including buildings, benches, trees, pavement, and even grass.

Following are comments from several US and Australian communities on their "free wall" experiments and the results:

City of Palo Alto   We do not have a free wall. What we do have is a skateboard    bowl, in which we allow graffiti inside the bowl. Actually we just don't remove it      there. To my knowledge there has never been any advertising of allowance of      graffiti inside the skate bowl. This bowl is in one of our parks; as expected, this      park continually has the most graffiti and the most frequency of graffiti in the city.  Thus, the "oozing effect"!!!!!!!

In the bowl we will get some very artistic graffiti, full of colors, mural-like. So we get some taggers who drive to our bowl to do some of their artwork. Then of course we get all the small tags and scribbles as well as bottles and cans. If you talk the employee who has to clean up in and around the bowl, he would tell you that we should just close the bowl, period. Also some skate boarders don't like the paint on the bowl, saying it makes it slippery.

During the two years I've been here I have seen the constant spread of the graffiti from the bowl to the fence around the bowl, benches, bike path, phone and every where they can in the vicinity of the skate bowl. Of course we don't post any signs about graffiti only in the skate bowl, so some may assume it is also allowed to tag the path in front of the bowl. I think the bottom line of the free wall is dependent on location of wall and   "taggable" areas around the wall. In other words a free wall in the middle of a large lawn behind the police station just might work.

Huntington Beach, California.  Nice idea but then the taggers coming to see the wall tagged the neighborhoods around the wall and also the kids just started tagging the wall without permits that were required.  They tried using sea walls at the beach for ‘approved graffiti zones’, but they soon had businesses and residents complaining because of the near-area vandalism the zones brought.  Eventually the program was scrapped.” 

Venice Beach, California.  (The pit).  This is the most well known…the area was buffed clean, then a contest was organized and the entire area done with beautiful murals…. later, the vandals came and they have tagged over the murals and destroyed the area.  What started as a nice project turned the area into a slum. 

San Fernando Valley, California.  Levitz Furniture Store.  The sanctioned wall not only caused damage to other walls and trees on the same property, but to every building or structure within a mile of the wall.  It was a magnet for every untalented writer.

San Francisco, California. Psycho City" or "Cycle City" was probably the largest free wall in the northern hemisphere…Graffiti vandals came from all over the world just to tag and to take pictures of themselves with their tag in Psycho City.  All of the streets leading into and out of Psycho City were covered with tags from vandals drawn to the West Coast’s Mecca of graffiti.  It started with one wall on Plumbers’ Union Hall and spread to an area that covered over two square blocks from top to bottom…this was on Market Street…only 5 blocks from City Hall. The neighborhood had given up on it and, although vandals were arrested, the     cases would be dropped by the District Attorney, because it wasn’t clear that     you couldn’t tag there.  It seemed hopeless that the mixed residential/commercial area could ever be restored.  The whole area for blocks around suffered from the constant tagging.  This was proof enough that legal walls won’t work.

On August 27, 1995 our graffiti team restored the walls by removing all the  graffiti in Psycho City.  Operating a stealth mission and over one weekend,     using hundreds of gallons of paint, armies of workers, high rangers and   PERMISSION to remove the graffiti…On Monday, all the graffiti was gone. Each morning, before dawns early light, we would check for retagging.  The first week we returned every day, but it only took a few minutes to remove any tags, and they never got to take a picture of the tags.  Soon, the retagging tapered off to once a week, and now, it goes for months without any tags. The graffiti vandals put the word out on the Internet that Psycho City was dead,     and that was the end of a west coast graffiti icon…What does this prove?  Free walls do NOT work, and, with persistence, any area, no matter how bad, can be turned around.  We know.  We did it! 

Rockford, Illinois.  The Aldeen Dam, located in a Rockford Park, was previously a place where high school students, with a permit, could spend all night decorating the walls with boasts about their schools.  In July, 1997, with the arrival of hip-hop taggers in Rockford, the Aldeen Dam became entirely dominated by hip-hop taggers only.  Almost all graffiti at Aldeen is done by the same taggers and crews that vandalize the residences, businesses, billboards, railroad cars, and signage of Rockford.  Further, the number of  tags at Aldeen is proportionate to a crew or tagger’s frequency of vandalism on the streets of Rockford.  This fact alone would seem to disprove the claim that a free wall” might be an effective tool to combat graffiti.  Aldeen also displays the spread-to-all-adjacent-areas” characteristic which other free walls manifest:  At Aldeen, in the areas adjacent to the free wall, there is graffiti on light poles, the grass, trees, the parking lot, trash containers, park benches, and walking trails through the woods.  

San Jose, California.   There were several unsuccessful attempts to provide free walls where vandals could legally write on walls. The result in each case was the increase of graffiti in the surrounding community, as the vandals (they are not artists) were unable to fight the urge to tag anything and everything on the way to and from the free walls.  Furthermore, the content matter depicted in the free walls was sometimes inappropriate and the City was forced to remove the graffiti at the taxpayer¹s cost.  Additionally, vandals used the sidewalk in front of the free wall to test paint colors and would drip latex paint on the sidewalk when they were repainting the wall for a clean canvas, again requiring the City to spend tax dollars to clean the sidewalk.

Law Enforcement Tagger Specialist.  The following comments were received from a very involved Law Enforcement officer specializing in tagger suppression......... 

"When I was a part of the team in the Long Beach undercover sting operation,  I suggested an area of free walls back in 1991.  None of the taggers were interested.  The reasons why they were not interested: 

  • The "establishment" was making them conform to rules.

  • Taggers have no rules and they are anti-establishment, like the crew names depict: YPN(Your Property Next) or MAK(Murderers Assassins Killers).

  • If it isn't vandalism its not graffiti. It would be like asking gang members to be gang members Monday thru Friday from the hours of 3:30 pm to Midnight and not on weekends.

Free walls will always attract the taggers that will not respect the concept and you have a Huntington Beach situation all over again.  The only reason why there is a persistence to make this "free wall" mistake again is someone's ego is getting in the way of common sense.  If a person goes to the Venice "pit" where it is similar to a free wall, all you have to do is look around the neighborhood and its got graffiti on it.  The taggers did not limit it to the pit.

I hope the folly of free walls begins to sink in, those people that say it is a    success often times hide the disaster it causes.  I would like to visit a city the size of LA and see where a free wall concept is working. What's really working and not working may boil down to 'from whose perspective?'.

G’day from Perth, Western Australia 

I do understand why people feel that giving graffitists’ space to do graffiti legally is a great idea. I used to supervise and regularly repainted a free wall” in Perth’s suburb of Burswood. The logic is: if they can do it legally, they won’t have to do it illegally, so the vandalism will stop. I have to admit that I use to feel exactly the same way. What I found out was that it was one of those unfortunate, well meant ideas, which work exactly the opposite way to its original intent. In my experience, the first drawback was that the free wall” attracted graffitists from other, often distant areas. Then, after the initial honeymoon period, illegal graffiti started to increase on surrounding properties. (I have pictures of cleaning the area with Ian Matthews to prove it :O) It got so bad that a local business owner called my boss and threatened to take legal action against the organization I was working for at that time. One day I found a sign on our free wall” which highlighted yet another, often forgotten aspect of the legal wall” debate. The sign stated: My mum thinks I’m in school, fuk school, this is my school” (look at the small photo attached). 

Based on my experience I believe that it is much easier to stop the free wall” from happening, than to try to close it. The instigators often don’t want to lose face and may have difficult time admitting that they were wrong. It is worth to point out that often those ideas get started on recommendation of a youth worker or a local youth council, who may care deeply about young people and truly believe in the merit of the idea. Well, as I mentioned before I did so myself. Now, I have to admit that it was just ignorance. 

I took my Burswood experience and had two battles (one short one very long) with two local authorities to close legal walls. At this stage I accept that it is just a fact of life that well meaning people will come up with this natural and logical” solution. As you would have read in the recent article from Perth, our state government which disbanded a very successful graffiti program wants now put more legal walls. I don’t have any sympathy for vandals, but I have great empathy for young people in general. I feel that adults often come up with brilliant solutions” and young people end up paying the price. 

I go along with Jim’s suggestions about taking responsibility for the consequences of installing a free wall”. Municipality or corporate body wanting to put a free wall” should be ready to sign a contract” with the community that they will take full responsibility for any adverse effects arising from the presence of the wall. Before creating a free wall” they also should come up with a plan, let’s call it a wall plan”, which would provide answers to following questions (and more): 

Is anyone going to monitor the free wall”? Is the wall going to be repainted regularly to provide fresh canvas” and avoid conflicts arising from graffitist painting over each other pieces”? What happens if someone will write obscenity on the free wall”? What action will be taken if there was:  F… the transit” or Kill Police” written on the free wall”? Is it going to stay there or will it be removed? What if the same tag or color piece as on the free wall” appears on surrounding properties? Is the original” on the free wall”? Will it be allowed to stay there? Is it going to be removed? Who will make a decision on what’s acceptable? Who is going to remove it? Who is going to pay for the removal? Is it going to be removed while young people are present at the wall? Who will guarantee personal safety of the person removing graffiti form the free wall”? Will the authority proposing legal wall” provide conflict resolution training to people removing graffiti from the wall, since they most likely will be confronted and asked to explain their action to young people present at the wall. Will the graffitist whose tag constantly show on the free wall” and at the same time on surrounding properties will be allowed to continue to do so without any consequences? If yes, will the authority make restitution to compensate property owners? If not, will the vandal be ban from the free wall”? Who will enforce that ban? What consequences will be in place for non-compliance by the vandal? How it will be enforced? What consequences will be in place for the authority for non-enforcement? Are there any possession laws in force? What will Police do if they stop at 2am a young person with a backpack full of cans who says that he was making his way to the legal wall? What about health and safety issues? Will young people use face masks? Who will enforce it? Who will supply mask? Would the authority carry liability insurance? Would those using the facility provided by the authority (legal wall”) be allow to take legal action against the authority for negligence in case of health problems resulting from prolonged exposure to toxins in paint. Could such legal action be taken let’s say 10 years later? Would the authority inform taxpayers that there is such possibility, before creating the free wall”? If such legal action takes place who will tax payers have to cover the bill? Will those wanting to paint on the legal wall” be asked to sign a waiver? How would such waivers be distributed, collected and verified? Would parent have to sign waivers for minors? Etc, etc, etc… 

I’m sure that if we put our heads together we could create several pages of similar questions. I thing especially those dealing with negligence, liability, and litigation may have the authority contemplating the idea of a free wall” pause for a moment to remember that "road to hell is paved with good intentions".  

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia:  Waverly Council in Sydney approved a "free wall" in Bondi Beach, arguably one of the worlds most famous beaches.  Within 6 months Bondi Beach became one of the worst affected areas in Sydney.  They now spend $3000 per month keeping a 1 kilometre strip of beach and retail shops free of graffiti.

Why should parents be concerned that their children are involved in graffiti? Isn't it merely a passing youthful transgression?  
For parents who are truly concerned for the welfare and growth of their children, there are at least five good reasons to steer them from interest in graffiti: 

(1) danger; 

(2) a potential criminal record, 

(3) anti-social values, 

(4) financial loss 

(5) addiction.

(1) Danger.   Graffiti vandals usually do their work under cover of darkness,   particularly between the hours of 10:00 PM and 3:00 AM.  Further, their vandalism is usually done in isolated areas, like railroad yards.  But in addition to the danger of being in isolated areas during the hours of darkness, there is inherent danger in climbing to the graffiti target.  Hip-hop vandals place an added premium on what they call a "heavens" tag, graffiti placed on a difficult target, like  a high billboard, a freeway sign, or the top of a building.  Many vandals have suffered serious injury or death while they were in the process of attempting a "heavens" tag.  Also, some, when climbing to their target, have been mistaken for burglars and shot.

(2)  Criminal Records.  Criminal records are possible from two general      standpoints.  First, within the hip-hop subculture, vandals are encouraged to "rack" (steal) the paint they use.  This is sometimes accomplished by shoplifting and sometimes by setting their paint aside in an area which can be accessed after store closing hours (e.g., the home and garden section, which is secured by a chain-link fence), then returning later, and breaking into the store with a bolt cutter to pick up their paint.  Second, and more obvious, is the criminal record which can result from their vandalism.  With hip-hop graffiti vandalism, such offenses are often out of the misdemeanor range and well into the felony range. The following are some approximate costs to abate what are frequent targets of graffiti vandalism:  

  • Railroad car: $2,000 to $4,000; 

  • Railroad bridge:$50,000; 

  • Billboard: $700.  

A graffiti vandal recently prosecuted in California was fined $100,000 and, due to parole violation, was sentenced to 36 months in prison; another, a high school senior in Milwaukee, was sentenced to 51 months in prison.

(3)  Anti-social Values.  The YMCA, a family-oriented American institution, identifies four character-development values: respect, honesty, caring, and responsibility.  Would you agree that those are desirable for your children?  Would you also agree that your children's values are either strengthened or weakened by those with whom they associate?  Would you like to see who they associate with when they choose graffiti?  Take a cyber-trip to one of their most popular newsgroup discussion forums, "alt.graffiti".  Once you have been there, draw your own conclusions about the character-development potential of such associates. You can go there directly by clicking here: Deja.com then, at the site, (1) click on "search discussions", (2) then enter "graffiti" as a subject, (3) and, finally, turn "on" the checkmark in the "alt.graffiti" box.  

(4)  Financial Loss.  Financial loss may result from (1) attorney fees and (2) retribution.  When a juvenile is arrested for graffiti vandalism, parents can expect  to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees before the case reaches final   disposition.  In addition, depending on parental responsibility laws in your jurisdiction, you may be ordered by the court to make restitution for your child's  vandalism.  The amount would depend upon the law in your jurisdiction, the judge's decision, and the amount of vandalism done by your child. In a recent   case in California, a tagger was convicted, as an adult, on several counts of  vandalism, and he was fined $100,000.  At the time of his conviction, his parents  were still paying back $42,000 in court-ordered restitution for similar offenses, committed when he was a juvenile.

(5)  Addiction.  Although no clinical studies have been conducted, it is becoming evident that graffiti vandalism can be addictive, and that the conduct continues well beyond teenage years.  For example, a professional engineer, dressed in white shirt and tie, driving a brand new BMW, was recently arrested for a series of graffiti vandalism incidents in a large metropolitan area; he subsequently served 9 months in jail for his offenses.

In another instance, the girlfriend of a Los Angeles tagger stated that he had previously been addicted to cocaine, but, since he got into graffiti, he dropped   the cocaine addiction and was addicted to graffiti.

And still another:  the following is an actual Internet posting by a 24-year-old vandal.  Read on!

"Sometimes I'll just sit and wonder why I love to bomb. How is it that I am  addicted to this? I never thought I'd still be doing it almost halfway through my 20's with no intentions of stopping soon or at all really.. I have no spare  time now with work and shit but all the extra time I have is spent painting or sketching or catching freights.. calling in sick because I want to go out and bomb that night or being really tired because I had to wake up early so I could get flicks of what I did the night before. I cant stop. Its fucked up. haha. Yeah. I'm sure someone will have some witty little retort so whatever.. If you're truly down you know it.. fuck everything and everyone else. Peace.

And the response to that, from a fellow graffiti vandal: "Damn!  My thoughts exactly!!!!!"

Finally, a note from a tagger attending an expensive private prep  school: " i get reall low on self esteem...like real low..i think about what would i do  with out graff.and i have nothing...i am running up a dark highway right now where the cars do not have head lights...my life is getting dangerous..i got involved with some gangs and almost got killed and i just got real low from people discouraging me..i almost couldn't take it..it was horrible....i was at a crossroad and some streets were one way and i picked one..my life is going down the toilet bowl like a dead roach.. iwalked down this road and now there ain't away back...i feel like i tottally fucked up my life recently and i don't exactly know how and when..so i can;t fix it...like right now i can;t even think about why it is so bad nor do i want to cuz i will get real low again.....my reputation right now is shit.....stay tru too u too...yo  and as far as we are concerned i was very impressed with your knowledge  of how a writer thinks...because it was mostly true....you know more then most....and you deserve much props.....peace" .

A subsequent note from the same graffiti vandal indicated that he was contemplating suicide. Had his parents been informed and vigilant, and had they intervened soon enough, his life might have taken a different course! 

What are the sentiments of graffiti victims?
The NoGraf Network believes in and supports communication.  But when the  participants are narrowly-selected, the resultant insights and conclusions will also be narrow.  There is an immense amount of communication between hip-hop vandals (over 100 magazines and over 1,000 Internet web sites) wherein issues (e.g.,  "art vs vandalism", "social value of graffiti", etc.) are discussed.  But such discussions take place without the participation of an obviously important group: the victims of graffiti.  Following are some victim statements from all points of the globe:

Toronto, Canada
She is single, in her 30's, and works as an Administrative Coordinator in Toronto. She just bought a house.
"It messes things up.  Is that part of town safe or is it gangs or what?  (They     should) have the whole group of them go out and clean it up.  It's not worth the     expense to put them in jail.  I  really don't think about it.  It's just something that's there."

Malmo, Sweden
He is 9 years old and a hockey player.  On Saturday morning his dad was     scheduled to drive a load of his teammates to an out-of-town match. When they came out from their house, they found that someone had tagged graffiti on all the windows of their car. "My Dad didn't know how to remove the paint and could not drive the car.  We     had to find another driver, which took too much time.  The game was lost,     because our team was one hour late in getting there".

Rockford, Illinois
She and her husband, both artists in their early 40's, just finished transforming a former small factory into several art studios.  It is a beautifully restored building  which sculptors, painters, and art dealers call home.  Last night taggers covered  the entranceway and front of the building with graffiti. "Why would they do this?!  Why did they choose us?  It makes me so angry!"

(When told that many hip-hop taggers consider their vandalism to be art….)
"Art?  Writing your name on private property is art?  Art is supposed to imitate nature; art is supposed to be beautiful!  This is not art!  This is criminal!  I hope they catch them and prosecute them to the full extent of the law!"

Phoenix, Arizona
They are an elderly couple, in their mid-70's.  They live in a comfortable house.  But with a fixed income, unforeseen repairs create a problem.  Last night the walls of their property were tagged with graffiti. 
"It's terrible!  They absolutely destroyed our property!  Why would they want to do such great damage?  I don't understand!"

Phoenix, Arizona
He is a high school student, shaking his head as he surveys graffiti damage.  "It's a shame that the police don't catch these kids and prosecute them to the full extent!  They are ruining our community!"

Phoenix, Arizona
He is a member of an active Neighborhood Association whose members are on the streets, as volunteers, removing graffiti every weekend.

"A large part of the negative reaction to graffiti is the lack of respect that is   shown when "my" property is defaced (public property is "mine", too).  If I had  wanted you to scrawl on my wall, I would have asked you to do it.  If you had asked me for permission, I might have considered it but you didn't give me that opportunity.  By your clandestine actions, you have taken away my right to determine the disposition of my property and you have said to me that what I  want doesn't matter, only what you want. You are creating stereotypes yourself, when you generically refer to graffiti as "art" and taggers as "artists".  To be "art", a piece should have some sort of appeal; either aesthetic or emotional.  Wall scrawl that is done by "writers" has neither.  I have seen photos of pieces that are truly artistic and deserve to be viewed but, when taken as part of the whole body of graffiti, there are damn few of them."

Phoenix, Arizona
He is a businessman, who took great pride in the special brickwork of his new business.  It was tagged last night by graffiti vandals. "If I caught them, I think I would shoot them!  I am that angry!  They absolutely destroyed my new business!"   

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The owners are a husband and wife in their mid-forties.  They own a two story mixed use building, which contains two commercial shops, and four residential apartments.  They have owned the building for the last five years.  They are hit quite frequently, and remove the graffiti themselves, unless the graffiti is on the second floor.  The commercial building adjacent to theirs is a one story building with a gap of two feet between the sides of their buildings.  The vandals stand on the flat roof of the adjacent building and tag their second floor. "I am very angry, I equate it to rape.  It's like someone left their dog out to chew up the garbage, but it's someone's kid, who was left out to destroy the neighborhood.  Why can't the parents control their kid?  People just don't care what their children are doing.  It makes me mad how easy it is for them to get paint; they sniff it, and paint the sides of my building.  I know the city is doing its best to control the sale of paint to minors, and fighting the graffiti problem.  One time they graffitied the garage, and it actually looked kind of pretty.  But when I talked to one of the shop owners, he didn't think it was pretty, he thought it was an eyesore and bad for his business.  They are like dogs, marking their territory, it annoys me greatly!"

Adelaide, South Australia
Alan is a Neighborhood Watch member who looks after graffiti in his street, which includes a Community Centre.  He is a retired painter, so he knows what he is doing, and he has run small "onsite" workshops for volunteers who don't have any painting skills.  He is part of a "rapid response group" of retired guys who love to clean up graffiti.  " Graffiti a blight on our Neighborhood, childish scribble blazoned across the side of buildings, why do these animals disgrace themselves plus their parents.  Have these mindless creatures no other thought , surely there must be at least one who has respect for the environment, do they ever look at what they are doing? Can they truly say that is great, I seriously doubt it. In the main their words if that be what they are, are an incomprehensible lot of scribble I doubt very much if even they could tell you what they mean.  What if anything are they trying to say?  Have they a message for the older generation, if so let us know. These so called graffiti artists cost the community Thousands of Dollars every  year,  that comes out of your Parents pockets.  Is it any wonder that I get angry when I see Graffiti.  I get very angry. I am angry because of the disrespect the vandals show for our property, and I get angry at the thought of using my valuable time to clean up the mess.   I also get angry because I have to use      valuable community resources to pay for the cleanup materials. I get angry also because my neighbors are afraid of these vandals that no-one sees. Are they phantoms, creatures of the night?  Why do they do it to my property?"

Perth, Western Australia
She had been a graffiti victim many times in the past.  Given this experience, when she considered building a new fence for her propert6y, she found herself taking the vandals into account…. I really wanted to put up a brick wall to complement the house and the neighborhood,. But I knew a 30m stretch of fence would be too much of a temptation and once it was graffitied it would always be scarred with bleach-type stains caused be removing it.  Instead I settled for a powder coated metal fence because I thought it would be easier to paint over.  Even so, the last time it was graffitied, the third time in less than a year, I was so angry I hung a sign over the fence saying: ‘where were you when your child did this?’ I thought the neighbors might be annoyed but I was surprised by the number who stopped and said: ‘Good on you’, ‘I’m sick of it too’, ‘The b…… have had my fence too’. I don’t know if I did any good but it  certainly made me feel better. We had to replace my letterbox three times’.    There was a home open in the nest street but I suppose the graffiti would have put off prospective buyers anyway.”

Washington, D.C.
She rides the Amtrak train between Washington and New York about every four weeks and has written in to express her approval of the Amtrak and D.C. efforts to crack down on graffiti vandals who target these trains. "New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's efforts to clean up graffiti has regenerated the quality of life in Manhattan. I look for similar positive results from the Amtrak and D.C. policing effort…The whole city will benefit. This notion of "marking" territory with graffiti reminds me of dogs marking their territory. The folks who use the expression "art" in connection with graffiti are utterly misguided, like the people in the children's story about the emperor's new clothes."

Missouri University                                                                        A month prior to graduation, graffiti has been applied to the porous stone columns facing Francis Quadrangle; the columns have always played an important role in commencement ceremonies.  "I just think it's terrible; the columns are a huge tradition.  Anyone that would do something like that obviously does not understand the meaning behind it."

Savannah, Georgia.                                                              Having moved to Savannah two years ago, he noted a very small amount of unsightly graffiti while his realtor showed him about town.  He was pleased with the upkeep and apparent commitment to keeping the city clean from "spray paint litter". "That…is a startling contrast to the scene today.  I took a walk around just one square recently and counted 27 separate pieces of spray-paint blight on building walls, windows, utility boxes and newspaper stands….I challenge citizens to join me in doing something about this increasing problem….it robs us of money, time, and probably most importantly, the value of beauty in our lives."  

Lake Tahoe, NevadaCustomers at the Head to Toe Salon are furious over the increase in graffiti after the Memorial Day weekend.  Call it a sign of youthful boasting or an example of misspent energy, the graffiti has become an intrusive reality of big city life invading their rural town. Graffiti seems more outrageous in an area cherished for visual beauty.  "Taggers - as the morons with spray paint cans call themselves - indeed seem to have been busy Memorial Day weekend. The remains of their juvenile antics can be seen on shops, fences, government buildings and just about any other surface that can be reached without too much effort….It's disgusting.  It reminds me of dogs marking their territory."  

San Francisco, California.  A year ago he had noted the increase in graffiti vandalism in San Francisco, expressing concern that graffiti had made Rome ugly, and the same fate might be in store for San Francisco.  "…the epidemic of graffiti vandalism has exploded.  Look around.  Our buildings, walls, alleyways, signs, lampposts, parking meters, mailboxes, streetcars, buses, bus shelters -- everything is a target.  Have you seen Chinatown lately?  There has been a steady change in the look and feel of our city….Visualize how the city will look after another year or two of this…"  

London, England: "I live in Raynes Park - a modest quiet suburb, but where graffiti vandalism is a massive problem. It's talked about as a victimless crime but that's nonsense. Every public building, virtually every shop and many residents have been victimised. Why are these criminals known as artists? Does that make the numbskull who snaps off a car aerial a sculptor? But tagging is on a completely different scale, with a devastating impact."

London, England: "Graffiti is not an artistic expression, it is merely an expression of contempt for the rest of society. Like all forms of vandalism it is the offence to others that gives its kick. I suppose while we are prepared to turn a blind eye we get the environment we deserve. I am already seeing vans driving around covered in graffiti. It cannot be long before our cars and front doors are targets. How far does it have to go before we wake up?"

London, England: "As a surveyor responsible for maintenance on several housing estates in north-west London, I see a lot of graffiti and have to remove it too. I've seen the effects on adults who have lived on the estates for some time and want to improve things. It leaves them gutted, with a feeling of helplessness especially when the police know the offenders and their tags. I can take people to areas which were completely redecorated only weeks ago and now look as if they have never been touched. The children do it because they can, there is no one to tell them "no, that's wrong"."

 

What is "hip-hop"?  How does graffiti fit in?
Hip-hop is a youth subculture whose roots go back to the Bronx and to Philadelphia in the late 1970's.  The subculture contains three primary constituents: (1) break dancing, (2) rap music, and (3) graffiti.  It is estimated at as much as 90% of the graffiti vandalism in the United States is hip-hop. 

What elements should be contained in an effective municipal graffiti program?

In general, three elements should be included in an effective municipal graffiti program:

  • Abatement.  Speed should be the paramount goal, but not at the expense of restoring the property to its pre-vandalism condition.  Studies have shown that the faster graffiti is removed, the less likely is it to return to the same site.

  • Enforcement.  This includes all actions by police, prosecution, and judicial elements.

  • Education.  There are three target audiences: (1) community-at-large, (2) parents, and (3) youth, particularly in the age-group preceding the normal starting age for graffiti vandalism.

What Can You Tell Me About NoGraf Members?

The NoGraf Network does not divulge specific personal information about its members.  However, we are happy to share the following overview information:  The Network has members on 6 continents and in 19 countries.   Membership categories include Law Enforcement, Abatement, Vendors, Community-Based Organizations, Professional Associations, Education, and Prosecution.  In addition to those in countries outside of the United States, members reside in Washington D.C. and over 100 other US communities in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho,  Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico,  New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

 

Do you favor graffiti exhibits sponsored 
by art museums and municipalities?

The NoGraf Network considers the sponsorship of such exhibits to be both irrational and irresponsible.  Here are our reasons:

(1)   It sends an undesirable message.  Graffiti is as much about communication as it is about the defacement of public and private property.  Vandals use graffiti to communicate, "I was here" and to solicit approval from their peers.  Municipalities, through the use of abatement and enforcement, communicate to the vandals that they will not tolerate their unlawful behavior.  Municipalities spend an estimated $15 to $18 billion dollars per year to clean up and to communicate this message.  When known graffiti vandals are highlighted as artists, it sends a signal of acceptance to both the vandals and would-be vandals.  It was not surprising to most that when we revered Michael Jordan as a national sports hero, there was increased youth interest in basketball reflected on the sandlot courts across America.  The youth "wanna be like Mike".  Why, then, are we surprised, when we venerate graffiti vandals as "artists", that there is increased graffiti vandalism in the sponsoring community?

(2)   The exhibits often act as accelerants, resulting in increased vandalism.  Following are accounts of recent graffiti exhibits in the United States:

 

  •             Venice Pit, Los Angeles, California, mid-1990's.  The Venice Pit was designated by City leadership as an outdoor gallery, showcasing local spray can artists.  In the years that followed, the area became an eyesore and all the original artwork was obliterated with tags, including every square inch of the surrounding area (benches, fencing, sidewalks, and trees.)  Amazingly, City leadership, in the summer of 2000, decided to re-open Venice Pit as a spray can artist outdoor gallery!  It is not clear whether the leadership is unable or unwilling to learn from past mistakes!  

 

  •       Beautiful Losers" Exibition-Triennale of Milan (Italy)-17 february/19 march 2006.
    At the exhibition there was a robot / writer who sprayed on a wall with a can the word "AMAZE".
    Result: many kids have sprayed this tag on several walls of the city!!!
    Local newspaper reported that, in the aftermath, there was a tenfold increase in graffiti tags in downtown Helsinki (a City which spends $2 million per year to clean up graffiti!).
    Spazio P4 Gallery - Urban Edge Show, Milano, Italy, 6-25 March 2005. As a result of a graffiti art exhibit, tagging increased around the gallery for a half square mile.
     

  •       San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, February 16, 1997.  The Museum exhibited the works of Barry McGee of San Francisco, an internationally known graffiti vandal who uses the moniker "TWIST" and who has stated that "graffiti's one of the last pure forms of freedom and destruction" and "I don't think about how much money is spent for abatement.".  While on exhibit, witnesses state that Mr. McGee vandalized the bus shelter in front of the Museum.  

  •        The Martinez Gallery, New York City, January 17, 1998 to February 28, 1998.  As a result of a graffiti art exhibit, tagging increased in and around the gallery for one square mile.  

 

  •       The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2, 2000.  The Center sponsored Shepard Fairey, a nationally known figure who promotes placing "ObeyGiant" posters on objects in the name of what he calls "phenomenology" (property owners call it "graffiti" when such posters are placed on their property without permission).  During his stay as a guest in Minneapolis, Fairey and an accomplice were caught placing their posters on private property and were arrested.  Also, phenomenology posters went up on public and private property all over Minneapolis, resulting in thousands of dollars in cleanup cost.  

  •       The Consolidated Works Gallery, Seattle, March 18, 2000 to April 30, 2000, featured Barry McGee, in his 30's, who has done graffiti in San Francisco, using the moniker "Twist" for about 10 years.  On the opening day of the show, 35 new tags went up in the area, and over the next 2 weeks calls to Seattle's Graffiti Hotline, reporting graffiti on private property, increased dramatically.  Barry McGee, the featured "artist" and Seattle's guest, was caught tagging the Hat & Boots property in Seattle, he pleaded guilty to property destruction, and was ordered to do 100 hours of community service in Seattle.

 

  •       The Modern Art Museum Kiasma, downtown Helsinki, Finland, July 30, 2000, featured internationally known writers (paid to participate) applying graffiti to a 120-meter-long wall.  The show was produced by Virve Sutinen from Kiasma, under the auspices of URB-Festivals Da North.  Thousands of youth attended the show, and the local newspaper reported that, in the aftermath,  there was a tenfold increase in graffiti tags in downtown Helsinki (a City which spends $2 million per year to clean up graffiti!).

 

  •       Spazio P4 Gallery - Urban Edge Show, Milano, Italy, 6-25 March 2005.  As a result of a graffiti art exhibit, tagging increased around the gallery for a half square mile.

 

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