Graffiti – art or vandalism?

Jul 25

Graffiti – art or vandalism?

Two articles about graffiti really caught my eye this week. The first one appeared in our local paper as a letter from a resident, and I quote her:

“On my Monday walk into Ashfield (a mere 4 blocks) I walked past at least 20 sites of fresh graffiti, tagging on houses, fences, Ashfield railway underpass and Croydon Station – some tags as large as a metre square”. She continued “As I understand it, graffiti photo databases can assist police in potentially identifying offenders (by their tags) and are used in formalising the number of criminal charges.”

The other article appeared in the Daily Telegraph and I quote that too: “Graffiti will be heritage listed and a register set up to safeguard popular street art under Sydney City Council plans.” And it continued “Policies for tagging and murals are under review to examine international best practice in commissioning, maintaining, conserving and decommissioning street art.”

What is criminal behaviour to one is worth conserving to another. If anything highlights our ambivalent attitude to graffiti, it is that.

Graffiti / Street Art is a way of life for many young people today and young developing male brains regard it as a game between them and the authorities. The more the authorities try to clamp down on it, the more attractive it becomes to these young developing brains. Most of these kids are not criminals and grow into model citizens. In criminalizing this behaviour we condemn young people who need guidance rather than courts.

The best way to deal with graffiti is to remove it as soon as it appears. We need to treat graffiti like rubbish on the streets. Just clean it up and get on with life. The harsher we make the penalties the more attractive it becomes to young graffiti artists… and the spiral continues.

Graffiti will never go away so we might as well develop realistic policies to deal with it rather than a simplistic “lock ‘em up” approach. We often forget that to young people graffiti is so attractive they’re willing to die in the act of doing it.

Surely there are bigger issues for our community to deal with such as the breakdown of family life today than a couple of kids spraying a tag on a freshly painted wall.

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