Five Ways Graffiti Vandals Damage Your Community

eHezi Borough of The Bronx, Ny, Community, Economic Development, Emergency Services, Environmental, Governance, Health, History, International, Law, National, New Jersey, New York City, New York State, People, Politics, Technology, Westchester County, NY 2 Comments

In many U.S. cities, the writing is on the walls – graffiti vandalism, that is, creating expensive eyesores that are difficult to prevent and damaging to an area’s image.

A U.S. Justice Department study found that graffiti discourages people from using mass transit, makes business districts less attractive to shoppers and increases fear of gangs among residents. Law enforcement and community officials talk about how graffiti – usually spray-painted or applied with indelible markers – is costly in terms of removal, lowered property values and lost business.

While removing graffiti from buildings, bridges, overpasses and sidewalks drains millions of taxpayer dollars, graffiti vandalism also creates challenges for those trying to track and convict the vandals.

“Graffiti is one of the most visible signs of general decline in an area, and cities are fed up with it,” says Timothy Kephart, founder of Graffiti Tracker (, a web-based system designed to help identify and prosecute graffiti vandals.  “Cities across the nation recognize how graffiti vandals continue to hurt their image and their tax base, so they’re finding different ways to fight back more effectively.

“There are lots of reasons we have to do a better job of cleaning this up.”

Urban Graffiti Art. Courtesy of

Kephart says there are at least five ways graffiti vandalism can hurt your community:

  • Removal is expensive. Los Angeles has estimated it spends $7 million annually on graffiti cleanup. Chicago has spent $6 million per year and Las Vegas spends $3 million annually. “Painting over the graffiti is the most common removal process, but spending millions a year to simply do just that is a waste,” Kephart says. “You need to spend time documenting graffiti to have the best chance of catching the criminal.”
  • It drives away business. Many people associate graffiti with a general decline in the area, indicative of crime and gangs. “Merchants lose business because customers feel the area is no longer safe,” Kephart says.
  • It erodes The Community. The negative perception of graffiti vandalism can send property values plummeting. “It indicates the community is losing control, and the graffiti, like the crime, can spread like a disease. It results in urban flight,” Kephart says.
  • It is toxic for the environment. Aerosol sprays used for graffiti emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that contribute to ozone levels, according to Also, the cleaning substances used to get paint off the walls are harmful.
  • It is a gateway to youth crime. Gangs often use graffiti as a form of communication, or for territory “tagging.” Most graffiti is done by youths who are either being initiated into gang activity or see their environment as a starting point for crime. “Often, graffiti is a gateway crime for juvenile offenders,” Kephart says. “If we can identify them at an early age, there’s a stronger possibility they can be re-directed onto a more productive path.”

“Imagine how many cities we could beautify,” Kephart says, “ if we could clean up this graffiti, prevent most of it, and have a way to find the criminals and make them pay the city back.”

Timothy Kephart is the founder of Graffiti Tracker (, a web-based system designed to help people identify, track and prosecute graffiti vandals. He holds a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Cal State Long Beach. A court-certified graffiti expert, Kephart has testified in homicide trials as it related to using graffiti as a way to prove motive for murder. He worked for the City of Carson as their in-house graffiti expert and was assigned to Carson Station for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.


eHeziFive Ways Graffiti Vandals Damage Your Community

Comments 2

  1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

    Your op-ed here is assinine! It’s akin to saying that persons of a certain color moving next door make the Neighborhood decline!

    It is ART!

    VOC’S from SPRAYPAINT!!!?
    Really??!! Really?!!!

    How about the FACT that you USE a PICTURE of a COMMISIONED PIECE OF ART “Out Of Control” was a PUBLIC AWARENESS Campaign about the dangers of HIV, AIDS and IV Drug use linkage! Yet post it here with context of it being illegal and / or a bad thing. Meanwhile the OWNER of that property ASKED and PAID FOR THAT!
    Here comes a slander suit… You basically just caused that person to lose business! I will bring this OP-ED to their attention. And then we will see what you think you do with YOUR opinion next time.. 😉

    And what about one of our nations most PHILANTHROPIC PUBLIC PERSONS being a supporter/ collector/ promoter of “Graf Art” (Do your homework on who and you WILL be flabberghasted!) If you can’t no worries… I’ll link you later.

    And also, let me just ask. If I can have BANKSY do “GRAFFITI” on a piece of YOUR PROPERTY Mr. Kephardt, will you PUBLICLY wash it away? Or will you take a chop saw to it and sell IT for the $1.5 MILLION DOLLARS it would be worth?…..

    Opinions are like ass holes. Everyone has one, but that does not mean we should share them with the world!

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