How Graffiti Positively Impacts the Artists

Graffiti can act as a creative outlet for people who struggle to express their emotions verbally. There was a news article by David Vognar published in the Huffington Post called ‘Prison Art Is Taking Off’. The article explains how art therapy has been helpful to prison inmates. Some benefits, according to the article, of art therapy in prisons are its cost-effectiveness, decrease in depression among inmates, and decrease in behavioral issues associated with mental illness. Although the particular art created by these prisoners is not graffiti specifically, if we define graffiti as another art form, we can argue for its emotional benefits to people in the prison population.

Photograph and drawing by Upreyl Mitchell and Kennath Artez Henderson The Night Sky



Negative Aspects Toward Graffiti

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. 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.

"Never Stop Loving"

Legal Walls

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.


City of Champaign Municipal Code

Minimum fine for all subsections regarding graffiti: $185

The City Council finds and determines that the increase of graffiti on both public and private buildings, structures, and in other places, creates a condition of blight within the City which can result in the deterioration of property values, business opportunities, and enjoyment of life for persons using adjacent and surrounding properties. The Council further finds and determines that graffiti is inconsistent with the City’s property maintenance goals, crime prevention programs and aesthetic standards, and, unless graffiti is quickly removed from public and private properties, other properties soon become the targets of graffiti. Source.

The City Council hereby declares that graffiti is a public nuisance and is subject to punishment and abatement as prescribed in this Code.

It is unlawful for any person to deface public or private property with graffiti.

It is unlawful for any person to assist, aid, abet, allow, permit, or encourage another to violate the provisions of this article, by words, overt act, failure to act, or by lack of supervision and control over minors.

During the time when any public facility is closed, no person shall have in his or her possession any graffiti materials while in or upon such public facility.

In addition to any other penalties and as restitution for a violation of any section of this article, a violator shall pay for the costs of repairing any damages to property caused by that violator’s unlawful conduct. When the violator is a person under eighteen (18) years of age, any parent, guardian, or other person having legal custody of the violator shall be responsible to pay for damages caused by the violator or abatement of the nuisance which is the result of the violator’s act. Source.

The owner shall replace rotting or missing fence panels or walls and all graffiti shall be removed. Such maintenance shall be conducted within one month of the occurrence causing the repair.

In the event the owner fails to install or maintain a required landscaped or screening area, the City shall notify the owner of action necessary to meet the requirements of this article and a date when such action should be completed. If the owner has not complied by said date, the City shall have the right to go onto said property and maintain said buffer. The cost for such maintenance or installation shall be at the owners expense. If the owner fails to pay, the City Attorney collect costs plus attorney fees to pursue action against the owner. Source.


No person shall willfully or wantonly damage, mutilate or deface any exterior surface of any structure or building on any private or public property by placing thereon any marking, carving or graffiti.

It shall be the responsibility of the owner to restore said surface to an approved state of maintenance and repair.


Graffiti's Past, Present, and Future