Attitudes Towards Graffiti
Attitudes towards graffiti from authority figures and anti-graffiti organizations, including the FBI, generally consider it to be a form of vandalism and while the specific details of the crime itself may vary between communities, graffiti is illegal. The US Department of Justice says that “graffiti contributes to lost revenue associated with reduced ridership on transit systems, reduced retail sales and declines in property value. In addition, graffiti generates the perception of blight and heightens fear of gang activity.” Residents also often report that they feel less safe in neighborhoods with graffiti, and there is often a link with a decrease in business, tourism and transit use.The city of Chicago describes it as scarring the community, hurting property values and decreasing quality of life. Graffitihurts.org says that it sends a signal that nobody cares and that it attracts further forms of crime and ‘street delinquency’ such as theft and violence.
In terms of cost, the removal of graffiti uses up tax dollars that can be used for community improvements instead such as roads and schools. For example, graffiti on road signs can ruin their reflectivity, causing a danger to road users, and costs $35 – $40 per sign to clean. Chicago is one of many cities and communities within the US offering free graffiti removal services in order to maintain the appearance of neighborhoods and businesses. However, parents or guardians may be liable for monetary damages, if a minor in the same household commits any type of vandalism, including graffiti. A 2006 survey of the 88 cities, Caltrans and Metro in Los Angeles County on graffiti removal found the cost was about $28 million. With a population of close to 10 million, the per capita cost is about $2.80. With a population of just under one million, the City of San Jose, CA spent approximately $2 million in 2006 fighting graffiti.
In general, ‘legal’ graffiti walls have been found to be ineffective. They attract graffiti artists from both within and outside the city, introducing new graffiti artists to the area who then leave without having to face the consequences of their actions. The area outside the designated ‘legal’ section often gets covered with graffiti once the legal area is filled. It is also important to point out that one major element of graffiti is the ‘fame’ aspect, with graffiti artists trying to gain fame by having their tag across the city. While the legal wall provides a place to have their name displayed, it is still only one place amongst many in the city and it is unlikely to prevent further graffiti from appearing across the community.
With a legal wall, governments or businesses essentially sponsor graffiti in an effort to rid a community of graffiti, sending a mixed message of tolerance vs. discouragement. There is also no data also showing any decrease in arrests for graffiti in cities with legal walls.