Graffiti is a criminal act, along with its culture. Often to join a graffiti crew or gang, the budding vandal must prove loyalty by stealing the paint. The fame of an individual “tagger” or “crew” is measured by the number of tags, by the size of the area the graffiti covers and the degree of challenge required to place the graffiti. That’s a lot of front fences.
These vandals are seeking fame and recognition by spraying our businesses, homes and rail corridors. New ground to spray is the goal. The internet even offers a wider audience for these vandals who publish their mess on the web.Gang graffiti is the most dangerous of all graffiti and can usually be found around our rail stations. It marks territory. Rival gangs challenge for turf by crossing out another gang’s graffiti.
The danger to residents is real. Gang members take the messages they read in graffiti very seriously and the longer graffiti is left up in a neighbourhood or precinct, the greater the risk that the threats will be acted on. Graffiti is a gateway crime. Gang membership almost certainly guarantees a criminal record.
So street smart are these kids that they purposely recruit and depend on their youngest members to carry out crime knowing juveniles receive more lenient treatment when found guilty. What’s the answer?
Locals Against Graffiti and Gangs (LAGG) is a community group that looks at social issues and works with local Councils, Police and Governments towards promoting a zero tolerance policy on graffiti.
Graffiti is probably the most visible of gang criminal activity. It can be seen in neighborhood parks, the backs and side walls of stores, fences, retaining walls, and any other prominent structure that is paintable. Graffiti is a crime, punishable by imprisonment and/or fines. Under the New GraffitiAct 2007, vandals can face fines of up to 2 years imprisonment for “Marking publicly visible graffiti on property without the owner’s consent.”
Graffiti should never be taken casually and should always be removed as soon as it appears. Graffiti is done by two different kinds of groups for two different purposes and it is important that the differences are explained.
Graffiti is usually done by a tagging crew or an individual. Many perceive this as a form of art work or social expression. It is usually very well done and vandals sign their work with some sort of nick name. The colours are bright and “painters” use different tip sizes and types to achieve the desired effects. It should be made clear however that it is most often done without the property owner’s permission or appreciation. Cost of removal can be very expensive.
Graffitists are usually caught because they are very proud of their work and they sign their piece. They call this throwing up a mural. Styles are very distinguishable and work is soon identified back to the “painter”.
Another form of tagging is called Gang Graffiti and is done for an entirely different purpose. Gang graffiti is usually done to mark territorial turf. It often displays the local gangs’ name as a warning to other gangs to stay away.
Sometimes tagging will take the form of a challenge to other gangs to show disrespect to them and make threats against their members. As an example; 187 SMK, would mean that someone has threatened a rival crew with the street name SMK.
Graffiti is also used by gangs to brag about crimes they have committed or intend to commit. This type of graffiti is more territorial and therefore has the potential of being dangerous. Gang members will often use marking pens on personal items to identify themselves as well as spray paint on larger items. They are not as concerned with style as they are with making a statement. Gang graffiti often is done in a cryptic or Old English style and is always printed.