Friday, September 21, 2007

Graffiti in Austin up 400% from 2002

A reader recently asked what percentage of graffiti comes from self-styled "artists" and how many were gangbangers. I didn't have an answer, and before now have never seen anyone offer even an educated guesstimate. But according to The Daily Texan ("Illegal graffiti on the rise, but can be artistic expression," Sept. 21):
Most cases do not reflect the gang-tagging community, but instead represent a growing art subculture within youth.

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 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.

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.

Graffiti removal cost the city more than $295,000 in 2007, according to the city's budget Web site.
That means reported graffiti crime has increased 400+% in Austin since 2002. That's quite a spike. See prior Grits graffiti coverage.


Anonymous said...

We have a pedestrian railroad underpass on our campus that is the main location for graffiti and when it gets full physical plant paints it to provide a fresh canvas otherwise the graffiti spreads to other locations. This approach has worked very well for many years.

I used to walk through that underpass twice a day for about 30 years and noted that the really gross stuff was painted over by other "artists" very quickly (less than 24 hours). I liked some of the creations but a lot of it was lame in my opinion

Anonymous said...

And to think it was right under your nose all this time.

Anonymous said...

In the words of the great Adam Sandler"

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a polemic on this topic. Unless the graffiti is directly affecting a business, I think it can be good for a community's aesthetic value. Austin is full of street art and it's a shame when it gets covered up. I try and document as much of it as I can at my Austin Graffiti blog.

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