The Parks Department cleaned up 7,633 sites in fiscal 2009, mostly using money from the city’s sales tax devoted to crime prevention. That’s an increase from 7,586 sites the year before and 4,710 in 2005. It’s historically been difficult to catch and prosecute taggers and graffiti vandals, though. Police reported 59 juvenile cases and 16 adult cases in 2009.Given how much graffiti occurs and how seldom perpetrators are caught and prosecuted, clearly solutions must come from other quarters besides law enforcement, so I'm glad to see Fort Worth seeking more non-punitive, education-based solutions:
Long term, it’s less expensive to prevent the problem, Assistant Parks Director Melody Mitchell said. The Parks Department and Fort Worth schools are using curriculum developed by the Keep America Beautiful Foundation in after-school programs. Between 2,500 and 3,000 students in grades three to five have gone through the program.
For older students, city officials are developing an educational program for first-time offenders.
The city has also included money for outdoor murals in this year’s public art program, with the belief that young people are less likely to vandalize walls and buildings that already have art on them.
Moncrief and other council members pressed city employees to be more creative. Moncrief suggested working with utility companies to help spot vandalism. Councilman Sal Espino suggested that the educational programs include material about historical buildings.
"I think if the kids learned the history of these buildings, it would go along with what Keep America Beautiful is teaching," he said.
Increasing money for outdoor murals, in particular, should help displace graffiti, as will expanded after-school programming for youth, whether the Keep America Beautiful curriculum or more traditional activities. IMO the next step should be to create a system to promote invited graff in underutilized public spaces or where property owners don't object. Nothing will "solve" the problem in the near term - it can only be managed - but current approaches don't appear to be making a dent, and boosting penalties hasn't helped.
That's why I'm glad to see at least one Texas city looking to solutions beyond arrest and incarceration for this common, non-violent offense. It'll be interesting to watch how well Fort Worth's new programs work compared to other jurisdictions. Enforcement is important, but it's just one leg of the stool. It works best combined with rapid cleanup of uninvited graffiti and the proliferation of acceptable artistic and social outlets for youth.
See related Grits posts:
- Toward a restorative graffiti policy
- Graffiti solutions: A cost-benefit analysis
- Creating public spaces for invited art adds carrot to stick of banning uninvited graff
- Invited graffiti: Solution or enabling for unwanted tags?
- Grading graffiti? What do youth want?
- Paint responsibly: Museum offers hands-on graffiti exhibit
- Allowing invited graff best way to reduce unwanted graffiti
- Mexico prevents graffiti by encouraging it at El Azteca Stadium
- Moscow turns to invited graffiti to liven up Soviet era buildings
- Gittin' tuff on graffiti spawns more of it in Corpus Christi
- Austin lags on important third component of graffiti policy
- Kids do less art in school, more in streets; Lege reacts with hammer