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"Graffiti is Vandalism and a Crime"
 by Rohini Sen

 All throughout history, the youth of this country find ways to rebel against their parents and society. Today graffiti serves as a means for these youths to reshape and restructure their self identities and their perceptions of their envioronment. "Graffiti art developed out of the scrawled nicknames, called "tags", that rebellious youth have been scribbling illegally with felt-tip pens and spray cans on walls, poles, road signs, even tree trunks, at least since the late 1960s" (Dunitz 96). These youths start off as "taggers". They begin their reign of desecration by choking the streets with their ugly scribbles or tags. As taggers matured, their writing evolved into graffiti. I find the scrawled tags and graffiti on the buildings, dumpsters and other properties to be extremely offensive, uninteresting, and unartistic; therefore, taggers and graffiti vandals must be severely punished and removed from the streets. Graffiti is a crime and it defaces our city landscapes and destroys our communities. It is illegal and unpopular in the public eye. Graffiti transgresses through a violation of property. It is unwanted and is excessive; it is beyond the control of the property's owner. According to "Cindy" [fictional name], a San Francisco police officer, graffiti is an "A-priority" crime. "Today, writers that are caught are fined heavily and are often put in jail for short sentences" (Bronx).

        Graffiti also violates the code of visuality - it is an "eyesore". The great majority of the graffiti are eyesores - paint sprayed onto walls in thick overlays of random scrawls. Graffiti is an eyesore because of its illegibility. Most individuals like myself do not recognize the contents of graffiti, therefore, have no idea what it's about. To me it is a mere scribble or an unattractive drawing.

        It is this violation of form, the possibility that a building can be deformed, that constitutes the violence graffiti and tagging display upon architecture. For example, Celine Russell who owned a white, neatly painted grocery store on Mission street in San Francisco a year ago now owns an ugly, multi-colored grocery store with scribbles that have no meaning to. The moment it represents something other than itself, it becomes distinguished from a mere building. It leaves a literal mark upon buildings. As a result, graffiti is often described in disastrous terms, usually as a symbol of a building's, a city's, and a society's decline.

         Graffiti takes away what people value most: the feeling of security. This sense of insecurity can be related to the uncanny, the basic tendency of the familiar to turn on its owners, suddenly to become strange and unfamiliar. Graffiti is uncanny in two distinct ways. One is graffiti is troubling to the owner: the unfamiliar marking of an owned space transfers ownership from the rightful owner to the owner of the marking. Graffiti can also dislocate and disorient by covering over signs that denote directions and routes; for example, it makes subway passengers uneasy, especially when it becomes difficult to tell which station a train is pulling into because its windows are covered with paint.

         "Graffiti vandalism has been an ongoing problem for most cities for several years with youths aged from twelve to the mid-twenties being responsible for the approximately $300,000 to $500,000 in property damage each year" (Crackdown).   It is ridiculous that we, taxpayers, have to pay for the cleanup. Instead that same money could be used more wisely, for example, educating our children or giving it as charity. Today the Police Departments all over in the related cities have taken this crime very seriously and have been very aggressive in identifying graffiti vandals, as well as arresting them for their crimes.

        There are several ways to overcome graffiti. The simplest solution - painting over the tagged surface. Another simple solution to graffiti problem is the banning of spray paint to minors. Such laws, of course, fail to take into account that graffiti violates the notions of exchange and ownership. That is to say most taggers steal their supplies. Police crackdowns and strict enforcement on graffiti (i.e., arresting writers) attempt to decrease illegal graffiti by apprehending a significant proportion of writers and thus deter writers from writing out of fear of being arrested. Informant programs where writers tell on other writers for a reward, seek to break apart the graffiti culture. Heavy sentences and fines for writers who are convicted for writing or related charges also intend to deter writers by raising the criminal  penalties if they are arrested and convicted.

         One of the things the task force has learned is that most parents have no idea their children are involved in these crimes and are not aware of some of the indicators of graffiti vandal activity. The parents should monitor backpacks for graffiti materials, check school papers and folders for graffiti tags and/or sketches of murals and know who your children's friends are and set curfews appropriate to ages. Also parents should educate their children about graffiti and the cost of this awful crime.

         Graffiti vandals must be prevented, eradicated, punished, and controlled. Our youths need to be educated on graffiti and the impact it leaves on society. The law enforcement officers need to emphasize their power and authority whenever necessary. The punishment of graffiti should be severe which will not allow repetition. Our neighborhoods and cities need to be inoffensive, interesting and artistic in its natural sense. In short, graffiti writers must be reclaimed into legitimate society as graffiti writing itself must be eliminated.

Works Cited
Dunitz, Robin J. "Aerosol Art aka Graffiti Art" Street Gallery: Guide to 1,000 L. A. Murals, Copyright 1993

"Art or Anarchy? Graffiti in the Bronx", The Opposition to ~Gragti:
"Graffiti Crackdown" - Saint Paul Police, Police Continue to Crackdown on Graffiti

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SFSU Student Essays reproduced with permission of the Student(s).
All Student(s) Essays were submitted by Professor L. Barroca, San Francisco State University.
Copyright, 1999, All Rights Reserved
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