Graffiti is an issue that generates widespread community concern. It impacts on state and territory governments, local government, police, public transport and utility providers, local communities and young people in a variety of ways. Although an issue of concern, there has been limited criminological research exploring the characteristics of graffiti offences and offenders and the impact that graffiti has on communities. This poses a challenge for policymakers and practitioners.
Although further research is needed, existing research suggests that graffiti can have a negative impact on community perceptions of safety and public amenity. Finding ways to effectively address graffiti is a long-standing issue. This is partly because graffiti is not a simple phenomenon and it continues to maintain its popularity. Further, there is debate over its place in society, with advocates claiming it is a legitimate art form and detractors seeing it as vandalism. This distinction carries through to debate regarding the motivation of graffiti writers and the characteristics of the graffiti they produce. What is clear is that responses should be based on information relating to the precise nature of the problem in the local context. This includes the types of graffiti being produced, the extent or incidence of graffiti, methods of graffiti writing, locations targeted by graffiti writers, when it occurs, who is affected by graffiti and the nature of their objection, who is involved and their motivation for participating in the production of graffiti (Sutton, Cherney & White 2008).
An understanding of these factors will enable more effective graffiti-prevention strategies that focus on reducing those elements that have a negative impact on the community as a whole.
This summary paper provides an overview of findings from research into graffiti, describing the range of different types of graffiti and graffiti-related activity, the impact that graffiti may have on the community, situational risk factors and offender characteristics. Implications for policymakers and practitioners seeking to develop and implement graffiti-prevention strategies are also highlighted.
What is graffiti?
Graffiti refers to the act of marking property with writing, symbols or graphics (Weisel 2002; White 2001). For the purpose of this paper, graffiti is defined as the marking of other people's property without their consent. In this context, graffiti is illegal and in Los Angeles it is a persistent problem that attracts a variety of penalties.