Cities Mount Legal War Against Graffiti


Last fall, the New York City vandal squad arrested Alain Maridueña on charges of spray painting graffiti in the subvways, says USA Today. Police raided his apartment and seized computers, cameras, and 3,000 cans of spray paint. Chicago expects 170,000 cases of graffiti this year, up from 106,849 three years ago. Graffiti is one of the most frequently reported complaints to Minneapolis’ 311 information line.

Graffiti is so common in Washington, D.C., that Mayor Adrian Fenty claims the right to remove it from private property without owners’ approval. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley wants to fine parents for their children’s scribbles. In Peoria, Ariz., surveillance cameras have been placed on poles in high-graffiti areas. Many communities have passed ordinances limiting minors’ access to spray paint and wide-tipped markers, or adopted a Justice Department recommendation to set up walls or boards for legal graffiti art. There are no national statistics on graffiti – much of it isn’t even reported to police. “It’s an amalgam of things coming together,” says Tim Cephart, a graffiti vandalism consultant. He cites graffiti’s larger role in pop culture, including its prominence in rap music videos.


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