Most cases do not reflect the gang-tagging community, but instead represent a growing art subculture within youth.I didn't realize the universities had secured special enhancements for graffiti on school property. Said a UTPD Sgt, "Under the penal code, anyone who defaces university property is automatically charged with a first-degree felony and will be arrested." A first degree felony is 5-99 years. Yikes! Can that really be true? Rape, by comparison, is a second degree felony (2-20). I'll bet most students don't know about that high penalty any more than I did, so I bet it doesn't create that big of a deterrent - not nearly as much as the university's longstanding commitment to rapid cleanup.
Gang-related graffiti accounts for 15 percent to 20 percent of the clean-ups, Casarez said, but the most common offenders are young adults influenced by a pop culture art phenomenon.
"If you go back in 2002, you can see this weird tagging subculture pop out along with the skater revolution," he said. "In five years, this art revolution has just developed not only at UT, but has grown nationwide into such a serious problem."
I'd also never seen documentation that graffiti in Austin (and likely elsewhere) has enjoyed such a massive growth spurt, though I suppose I've seen the visual evidence. Citywide:
Every year, graffiti cases in the city increase by nearly 2,000. In 2002, there were 3,900 cases, with 15,750 in 2007, said Tony Casarez, the program coordinator for Austin Graffiti Abatement Program.That means reported graffiti crime has increased 400+% in Austin since 2002. That's quite a spike. See prior Grits graffiti coverage.
Graffiti removal cost the city more than $295,000 in 2007, according to the city's budget Web site.