In case you didn't know, February is Graffiti Awareness Month. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is joining forces with the City of Phoenix to help raise awareness and encourage residents to remove graffiti from their communities.
Unlike murals and other works of art, graffiti defaces and destroys public and private property and can at times be affiliated with other crimes. When not addressed, graffiti can become a prevalent and persistent problem affecting a community's economic development. Although a single incident might not cause concern, it may encourage others to deface property or areas further or incite retaliation from a rival gang. When graffiti is related to gang activity, it causes a decrease in public transportation use, loss in retail sales, and a decline in property value. Sadly, this also creates an environment of fear and can contribute to the overall decline in a neighborhood. Cleanup and removal are not always easy and can be expensive for a business or property owner. It is estimated that cities spend millions of dollars cleaning or covering up graffiti every year.
While it may be easy to ignore or think that graffiti is not a severe problem, it must get reported to local law enforcement as soon as it occurs. In the City of Phoenix, there are three ways you can report graffiti:
- If you see graffiti happening, call 9-1-1
- To report graffiti, call Crime Stop at 602-262-6151 or visit Phoenix.gov/AtYourService
- To request graffiti removal, call Graffiti Busters at 602-534-4444 or email email@example.com
In addition to removing graffiti, you can also help prevent future tagging by limiting the number of vulnerable areas such as blank walls and structures. Consider blocking these areas with fencing or covering blank walls with vegetation like shrubs or vines to restrict access. Adding lighting such as motion sensor lights can also deter graffiti and help increase surveillance. Communities can also use these spaces for murals or large pieces of art, decreasing the likelihood of graffiti.
Organizing a neighborhood watch is another proven way of reducing this type of behavior and letting those who deface property know that it's not tolerated in your neighborhood. Parents can also help instill a sense of community pride in their children by getting them involved in community projects and teaching them about the adverse effects tagging can have in a neighborhood. It's also just as important to remind teens and young adults about the legal consequences of graffiti and property damage, which in Arizona is a misdemeanor but can rise to a felony if there is serious damage.