Some people consider graffiti a form of street art. There are even entire areas of public spaces in the United States (and the rest of the world) where graffiti artists create urban art permitted by the local authorities. However, there is a wide range of types of graffiti that are not art; in most cases, it’s vandalism and is an entirely different ball game. It’s a form of criminal property damage done without the permission or content of whoever owns the said property.
Because graffiti entails the unauthorized marking of another’s property without their consent, it’s a form of vandalism – as well as trespassing. Graffiti on someone’s private property is an invasion of the owner’s property rights. When it appears in public, it’s deemed a violation of public space. Both instances have serious repercussions that aren’t always immediately apparent.
Prevention outweighs tackling the knock-on problems that graffiti causes, with deterrents like CCTV, signage, fencing, security lights, alarms, and the mosquito device all serving as excellent preventative methods. Still, here are some of the issues graffiti can cause – whether it takes place in public or on private property.
1. Property Damage
The materials used to create graffiti can damage the surface on which it appears. The chemicals in graffiti apparatus, such as spray paint and markers, are harsh and can weaken structural surfaces. Graffiti can also deteriorate structures as time passes, rendering them far more susceptible to damage from weather, environmental wear and tear, and other factors that can further reduce their integrity.
It’s not only damage to property that’s a major problem resulting from graffiti; removing it is challenging and quite invasive. In addition, because graffiti cleaning methods utilize harsh chemicals and abrasive techniques, removing it can weaken a structure’s surface even more, making it more prone to damage from the elements over time.
2. Drained Finances
The cost to remove graffiti can be incredibly high, particularly if the extent of the damage is far-reaching (as is the case with removing it from large buildings and complex structures). Of course, a small amount of graffiti on certain surfaces can be removed without professional intervention (or simply painted over, in many cases). However, depending on the paint used, the surface on which the graffiti has been created, and the sheer amount of it, professional removal may be required – and that can be costly.
Homeowners, businesses, and governments may need to bring in the services of professional graffiti removers specializing in removing all forms of graffiti. This option can entail pricey equipment and materials, not to mention the service and labour costs. On top of that, surface repairs may also be necessary if the graffiti has caused significant damage or the removal process leads to structural weakening.
Residents, businesses, and governments aren’t endless pots of money; the costs associated with graffiti removal can prove to be a heavy financial burden, especially for communities or small businesses with limited resources and funding. Simply put, the funds spent on large scale graffiti removal may be drained from other resources, such as essential public services and projects. Let’s not forget, in the case of fixing public spaces, who foots the bill for that? The taxpayer, of course.
3. Decreased Property Values
The presence of graffiti in an area, whether public or residential, can lower property values. If a community has a visible incidence of prolific graffiti, it looks unsightly, run-down, and neglected. But the problem goes deeper than the deterioration of a community’s aesthetics; graffiti strewn around the place can make it seem unsafe and not well-maintained, thus rendering it less desirable as an area. People might be less inclined to rent or buy houses and businesses in towns, communities, and neighbourhoods with a lot of graffiti, which then, sadly, leads to a decline in property value.
Ultimately, graffiti negatively affects how local people think about their community, making them feel less pride in where they live and, in many cases, unsafe. It also repels investors who might otherwise choose the given location as a place to pump funding, open a business, or create jobs.
4. Increased Crime and Disorder
Graffiti is typically synonymous with gang activity, anti-social behaviour, vandalism (like broken windows and slashed tires), and other forms of crime. As such, its presence can cause people to perceive the area in question as unsafe and where criminal activity occurs. This perception creates fear and discomfort among residents and anyone passing through the town or neighbourhood, often causing them to avoid spending time in spaces with a lot of graffiti.
Graffiti is a sign of lawlessness and disorder, which not only impacts the people living in the area and traveling through; additionally, it sends a message to troublemakers that the community is a playground for them to carry out their illicit activities. When a locale contains high levels of graffiti that goes unaddressed for long periods, it shows that local authorities aren’t really present or making much effort to curb crime in the area. This neglect informs graffiti vandals and criminals that they’re less likely to get caught if they engage in crime and anti-social behaviour in this space – it marks territory out for them. Graffiti in itself can become a magnet for crime – a safe beacon for those intending to cause trouble.
5. Local Business Closures
As mentioned, a lack of investment can stem from graffiti and other forms of vandalism; investors and businesses are less likely to choose a place that’s unkempt, unsightly, dangerous, and rife with crime. However, businesses already existing in an area with a graffiti problem are also affected.
When people associate graffiti with disorder and crime, they often feel unsafe in the community, which can see them avoiding spending time in public and attending local businesses. After all, why would residents, especially vulnerable people like the elderly, disabled people, and even women, go to their local shop if the streets are lined with graffiti and intimidating individuals enjoy free reign over the town? Shopping online is far more enticing in this case.
Unfortunately, due to the criminal association of graffiti, an area can experience lowered foot traffic and, therefore, local businesses can lose revenue. Eventually, the continued negative perception of a community and the general feeling of unsafety in the area can reduce local businesses’ revenue so much that they have no choice but to close.
As with most problems, prevention is better than a cure. Public spaces and private properties can be protected from graffiti and its effects by preventing it in the first place. To do that, there are various solutions, such as CCTV, “no trespassing” signs, security lighting, burglar alarms, and fences. Another simple method is the mosquito device for graffiti, which deters youths and young adults from loitering in a space. Combine these deterrents, and graffiti should be much less of an issue.