Graffiti: The Ugly Stain of Gangs and Burgeoning Crime

Gangs are becoming a problem even in small rural towns, and the tell tale sign of gang activity is graffiti. Read on to learn what to do if you encounter graffiti on your business property and find out how to deter it.

I attend the annual Police-Security Expo in Atlantic City every June. The expo showcases vendors offering the latest in police and security technology. The expo also offers a variety of seminars on important current crime issues.

The issue of gangs was prominent at the expo a few years ago and I sat in on a couple of seminars dealing with this growing problem. One gang expert spoke of how gang members artfully recruit young people – children really – and sweep them up into an awful and violent lifestyle.

According to the FBI, 30,000 street gangs, motorcycle gangs and prison gangs with 800,000 members operate in the U.S. The FBI reports that many of the gangs are sophisticated and well organized and all of them use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal activities, which include drug and gun trafficking, robbery, theft, fraud, extortion and prostitution.

I’ve spoken to several law enforcement officers about gangs and they tell me that gangs not only operate in the “bad” neighborhoods, they are also active in affluent neighborhoods and commercial areas. Although some gangs are predominantly one race or another, gang membership is not entirely race-related.

Graffiti, cops say, is a product of gang activity. Although not all graffiti is gang-related, gangs use graffiti as a means to identify members and territory, which is called “tagging.” Graffiti also promotes gang conflict and drug sales.

Graffiti comes from the Greek word graphein, which means to write. There are the simple monikers that display the nickname or image of a graffiti writer and there are more elaborate drawings that can cover a huge wall. Police consider graffiti to be a form of vandalism and that vandalism hurts your business. Graffiti, like broken windows and abandoned cars, presents a negative image of your neighborhood and your business. Graffiti is an advertisement for more crime. The tell-tale graffiti markings may also tell you and the police that there is gang activity in your area.

If you encounter graffiti on your business property, you should immediately report it to the police and once the police have seen it, you should remove it. If you are frequently targeted, you might want to photograph the graffiti before removing it. There are a number of graffiti removers on the market and the remover can be used on glass, brick and block walls. Often, the best way to remove graffiti is simply to paint over it.

There are a number of methods you can use to prevent graffiti, including the installation of alarms, exterior lights, cameras and fences, as most graffiti is spray-painted at night. You can also plant Clinging Ivy to the walls or plant thorny bushes in front the wall. A “good ole dog” also discourages people from vandalizing your property.

You also might consider joining the local town watch or business watch, and if there are none active in your area, you might find it beneficial to organize one yourself. A town or business watch can work with the local police to prevent crime, including graffiti.

Although the crime of graffiti-vandalism is generally a misdemeanor, the frequency and the scope of the graffiti may often propel the police into seriously pursuing the vandals. Regularly reporting graffiti to the police and complaining to the police captain also raises the police response.

If you have a graffiti problem, hopefully, it’s just a lone “tagger” and not a sign of gang activity. But either way, you should contact the police. By working closely with the police and your fellow business people and neighbors, you can prevent the ugly stain of burgeoning crime.

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