Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rapid cleanup best graffiti antidote

I wanted to point readers to several interesting, recent news stories related to graffiti, particularly regarding the issue of rapid cleanup, which I've long believed is the single most effective strategy a city can undertake to combat graffiti:

Rapid cleanup best graffiti antidote
Here's an interesting little profile of a code enforcement employee in Chandler, AZ, a Phoenix suburb, whose full-time job is cleaning up graffiti, which he is usually able to remove within 24 hours of a new report. The stats jumped out at me: In 2008, this one man erased graffiti at 1,847 different spots. Do you think Chandler police made even 1% as many arrests? Probably less. Harsh penalties may make grant the public a cathartic moment of gloating satisfaction when punishing the small handful of taggers who are caught, but rapid cleanup actually provides redress to victims of vandalism and is a greater deterrent to graffiti than a one in a thousand chance at being arrested.

There's an app for that
Boston has proposed a cool idea, allowing citizens to report graffiti and potholes directly from their iPhone. From the Christian Science Monitor:
Soon the City of Boston will adopt the first iPhone app in the nation that will allow residents to voice municipal complaints and concerns via iPhone. Rather than calling a 24-hour hotline, Bostonians will be able to snap photos of potholes or graffiti in their neighborhood and send it directly to Boston’s City Hall. The app, Citizen Connect, which was dreamed up by mayoral aid Nigel Jacob, will use the iPhone’s global positioning system function (GPS) to identify a citizen’s exact location when they submit a complaint. It can be downloaded for free once it’s released in the iTunes App Store, and will also provide users with a tracking number so they can keep tabs on their complaint’s status.
NYC would shift graffiti cleanup burden to city
New York City has done a tremendous job with graffiti reduction compared to, say, Los Angeles, even though, for some reason, L.A.'s draconian git-tuff tactics have been more popular with anti-graffiti agitators in the flyover states. New York's main focus has been rapid cleanup and this report lets us knonw about a new proposal to streamline how quickly graff can be removed from private property. According to AP, "The new legislation would give the city authority to remove graffiti unless a property owner says otherwise. Officials say the change allows property owners to keep graffiti they consider artwork, and speeds up the removal of vandalism."

Their graffiti problem in NYC is a little bigger than in Chandler, AZ: "So far in 2009, Bloomberg's graffiti removal team has cleaned an estimated 2.5 million square feet of space at nearly 4,000 sites. Other city agencies have also cleaned graffiti, for a total of 6 million square feet removed to date in 2009."

Arrest him before he inspires again
Unrelated to the rapid cleanup theme, but I thought this was an ironic example of prosecuting someone purely because of their celebrity. Reports Reuters:

Shepard Fairey, a Los Angeles artist whose "Hope" image of Obama hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, was arrested in February while traveling to Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art to kickoff his first solo exhibition. ...

Fairey pleaded guilty to one count of defacing property for placing a poster on an electrical box in 2000 and to two counts of destruction of property in 2009 for placing a sticker on a traffic sign and affixing a poster to a condominium.

It's one thing to pursue Fairey for recent acts of vandalism, but a graffiti charge for "placing a poster on an electrical box in 2000"? How is it remotely possible the statute of limitations hasn't long ago run out on that offense? And is there any reason to prosecute him for it besides pure spite? The ironic part is that Boston officials hope to punish Fairey, but there's little doubt the more significiant function of this spectacle will be to garner Fairey more publicity and boost his art career.

Who do you think has done more to reduce graffiti? The lone guy in a pickup in Chandler or all the cops, jailers, prosecutors, clerks, bailiffs, the judge, etc., in Boston whose taxpayer-funded time was spent processing Shepard Fairey through the justice system? Which tactic reduced graffiti more and gave taxpayers more bang for the buck?


Anonymous said...

I don't see rapid clean up and punitive sentencing as mutually exclusive.

I think the best policy would be to use rapid cleanup and also have significant prison sentences.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

But if the budget is tight and it's time to pick, which should go first?

IMO the public benefit per dollar spent is a lot greater when focused on cleanup.

Anonymous said...

I don't see it as a conflict, the prison will be paid for by the state and the graf clean up by the local governments.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Because as long as we retain the illusion that there are many different hands reaching into their wallets instead of one big one, taxpayers don't mind, right?

Anonymous said...

Statutes of limitation are things of the past mostly...along with escalation of misdemeanors to felonies as our beloved Texas lege practices with vengeance.

Anonymous said...

It only costs 20K to put an inmate in a Texas prison, some of these graf artists have done more than that in damage, so we need to lock up a few of them.

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