Conversation with a teen graffiti "artist"

What I want everyone to know about the graffiti issue in our neighborhoods
  1. Why do some juveniles like doing graffiti so much?
    1. They have nothing else to do with their time. They have been presented with no options that interest them.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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 invisible way.

      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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. What do I want everyone in this courtroom to understand about those of us who want to address the issue of graffiti in our community? 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 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:

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.

Last modified:2012-09-21 anybrowser HTML 3.2