Neighborhood Watch | TAG...YOU'RE CAUGHT!
Graffiti is a crime, not just a nuisance.
Graffiti or tagging as it is sometimes called is a misdemeanor crime. It can, however, become more serious, felony-level crime if the damage inflicted is more than $1,000.00. Other penalties such as the severity of the crime, the criminal history of the offender, his/her age, etc. determines the type of probation or jail time received. The judge may also sentence the offender to community service hours. The verbiage, if any is also influential as to the penalty received as remarks that are construed as hate crimes are treated quite seriously.
In addition to being a crime, graffiti:
- Shows disrespect for the law and rules;
- Frighten people because it indicates there is crime in the area;
- Affects the community, in that it can lower property values;
- Sends a message that there may be ganging related members in the area; and
- Shows a general lack of respect in our society.
The Police departments that work with communities and Neighborhood Watch projects explain there is a whole underground society of “taggers” who have nothing to do with street gangs. Taggers see what they are doing as a form of artistic expression and do not think of it as crime, although the thrill of placing a tag on something that could result in them getting caught enhances their status within the tagging community. To add to this, taggers continually update their tags as they become more proficient. They may progress from bathrooms to street signs to brick walls, and then to more difficult mediums such as road signs. Most of these offenders are risk takers. Tagging in a bathroom stall, for example, is on a much lower risk level status versus tags on a highway sign suspended over a road.
Tagging seems to increase during school breaks, in the spring and summer, and then reappear during the Thanksgiving and December school breaks. The most common tagging in community associations seems to be tagging the perimeter brick walls and community road signs. Larger Associations who have playground areas are especially vulnerable to taggers using high quality permanent products to tag the community playground equipment. In certain cases, vulgar and offensive language, while not typical “tagging” causes expensive cleaning and sometimes the need to remove and replace community equipment. There are specific cleaning solvents for concrete, plastics and painted surfaces. The cost to community associations for a cleaning service, solvents and paint to eliminate the tags are now factored into many budgets. The outcome – another unfortunate expense to homeowners.
The law enforcement officers strongly recommend the immediate removal of tags to discourage the offender. The tag itself is their badge of honor – their ability to show that they can overcome obstacles to deface your property. Remove that tag and their accomplishment has been negated. They will become discouraged and leave their make on an area where is remains.
Get involved in your community by combating graffiti. Educate your community that this is a crime not a nuisance. Engage in a maintenance plan to remove the graffiti immediately.
Jo-Ann M. Greenstein CMCA, AMS, PCAM, Vice President, Phoenix, AZ