Do vandals create an ugly neighborhood? Or does an ugly neighborhood breed vandalism? Property damage is usually an outlet of youth anger, revenge, boredom, or territoriality. A neighborhood with excessive graffiti and damaged or run down buildings displays a “don’t care” attitude. This attracts littering, loitering, and more vandalism. It hurts local business, decreases property value, and fosters the deterioration of the neighborhood as a whole.
Community pride is an easy and effective way to prevent an area from becoming a target for graffiti, vandalism, and crime. Damage attracts more damage, so vandalized property should be repaired as quickly as possible and graffiti should be removed before it attracts imitators. There are numerous methods for removing graffiti, including painting over it, chemically treating it, or soda blasting it away, depending on the surface. Although still at risk to be defaced again, speedy and constant maintenance of the affected surfaces deters future abuse.
Building design and standards are major factors in the likelihood of vandalism or damage to property. Planners should design public spaces that are attractive and foster an idea of ownership. See NCPC’s publication on Crime Prevention Through Environment Design, or CPTED for ideas on how to design safer urban spaces. With better design, areas become defensible and residents feel responsible for preventing vandalism. Builders need to be aware of how buildings will be used and ensure that materials and fixtures will be strong enough to withstand everyday wear and tear as well as misuse.
The City of Chicago has been progressive in its efforts to mend and prevent graffiti. Mayor Richard Daley implemented Graffiti Blasters in 1993 expanding the city’s public graffiti removal services to the private sector. Property owners are notified and given five days in order to reply if they want to keep freshly marked graffiti. After five days the city has the legal right to remove it. Since the program started, the city has cleaned more than 900,000 buildings. Most appreciative are business managers and owners who previously spent thousands annually to remove graffiti that was intimidating to their customers.
Chicago has also created the Give Graffiti the Brush program. With this program, city-purchased paint is given to any block club or community agency willing to cover graffiti on any surfaces unsuited for soda blasting machines.
Some vandals who mark graffiti believe themselves to be artists. However, graffiti done without the owner’s permission is a crime. The unwillingness of a community to fix crimes like graffiti and vandalism only fosters the acceptance and growth of other crimes. However, a community that cares can eliminate most future abuse by acting now. So take pride in where you work and live in order to help Take A Bite Out Of Crime®.