Conversation with a teen graffiti "artist"
What I want everyone to know about the graffiti issue in our neighborhoods
The fantasy world that the taggers live in makes them think they are
invisible to us.. and that we are invisible to them. We want them to know:
- Why do some juveniles like doing graffiti so much?
- They have nothing else to do with their time.
They have been presented with no options that interest them.
- It gives some of them a thrill when they can come back and look
at their tagging or the thrill of doing something risky that
might result in getting caught.
- Their tag represents something in their mind; a persona that
they take on, imagining themselves as more fierce than they are,
more aggressive, more likable, more important.
- It becomes an obsessive activity; the act of tagging coupled
with the use of inhalants such as spray paint and indelible
markers; it becomes for some an engrossing activity that is
addictive. The more they tag, the more this fantasy becomes real
to them about who they are or who they think they want to be. The
world around them becomes their canvas, their battleground, their
landscape for creating this make believe world in an anonymous and
It is not surprising that we have people living
among us that are much older and still tag. Those people have had
their personality growth stunted by this type of activity. They are
stuck in this cycle of destructive activity and they can't stop.
- It is destructive to our neighborhoods and businesses, those who
have to clean up after them, constantly. It is destructive to our city
budget that allocates $400K per year just to cleaning it up.
Businesses and community groups spend even more money following in
their wake, functioning like janitors cleaning up after errant 3 year
olds who want to doodle on the walls of our community.
It is destructive to the lives of these juveniles because
they are wasting their time with a useless activity that is keeping them
from preparing for life and adulthood. For a 16 year old, there are a few
years left before they are expected to assimilate into the adult world in
a productive way. If I had a child who was caught doing graffiti, I would
work to make certain that they were redirected to activities that interest
them, make certain that their mind was directed towards positive things
that will help them prepare for life.
- Why do we clean up graffiti?
Why don't we just leave it there for people look at?
Why have we spent our time helping the police identify the
taggers in our midst?
It is a well known theory, the 'broken window' theory, that if you
allow the kind of blight that can affect neighborhoods' uncared for
properties, graffiti, trash, and other types of issues that make a
neighborhood look run-down - - - that it attracts crime. A criminal
traveling through an area can conclude,
"Well, if these people aren't concerned about taking
care of this mess, then they probably won't notice me
breaking into a car.. they won't call the police if
they do see it."
So that is why we clean graffiti up as soon as possible. It looks
bad just like a pile of trash looks bad in our neighborhood.
- What do I want everyone in this courtroom to understand about
those of us who want to address the issue of graffiti in our
We are proud of our neighborhoods and work hard attractive places
to live for all of our residents. That is why we do this; to make
them safe. We do not want to look at graffiti, any more than we
would want to look at trash strewn about.
- The neighborhoods will continue to work together in
identifying the most prolific taggers.
- We will continue to clean up our neighborhoods to keep them
safe and attractive.
- We will continue to ask our city government and school
district to help identify these juveniles so we can steer
them on to a better path in life.
- We will continue to clean it up.
- We will continue to help identify the individuals who are
responsible for costing us so much effort, time and money.
We see you walking our streets. You are not
invisible to us at all. We want you to be spending your time doing
something that will make you a happier and better person later in
life. And we want you to be able to recognize the harm that
you are causing to others, because doing harm to others will not
bring any happiness into your life at all.
I'm certain it will take a while for you to figure this out, but
that's why you are being given a chance to consider your behavior
and the consequences it has for your future.