The Beloit City Council passed a graffiti ordinance in June.
The ordinance requires property owners to remove graffiti. It also restricts the sale of spray paint and markers from those who are under the age of 18. Now that the ordinance is in place, the city is putting it to work. Officer Jon Ammeson is the force behind cleaning-up the graffiti that covers the city's buildings. Ammeson says early graffiti removal is the key to preventing more serious crimes.
Ammeson's dedication is appreciated by local businesses and residents. However, other residents feel that the fines accompanying the ordinance are unfair. The Beloit Police Department says the response to the graffiti program has been overwhelming positive. That's because around 99 percent of the graffiti in Beloit is gone. Now, they are working to keep it that way.
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For youths who may not be able to express themselves through other media, such as prose or music, graffiti represents an easily accessible and effective way to communicate with a large audience.
Modern graffiti generally falls into one of three categories--
junk graffiti, gang graffiti, and tagging.
- Messages are not gang-related but often involve obscene, racist, or threatening themes.
- The line separating gang graffiti and tagging has become blurred in recent years.
- Tagging as a form of graffiti first appeared in the early 1980s and has grown immensely popular in many parts of the country, in both rural and urban areas.
- A tagger is someone who adopts a nickname, or tag, and then writes it on as many surfaces as possible, usually in highly visible locations.
- While the images taggers create may not necessarily be gang-related, research shows that most taggers hope to join gangs and use tagging as a way to gain the attention of gang members.
- Tagging messages usually resemble handwriting, but may be difficult, if not impossible, to read. Taggers also have been known to invent their own letters or symbols, often adding to the confusion over the message and the author.
- Often, gang graffiti and gang-related tagging serve an additional purpose--communication. In fact, graffiti as a means to communicate territoriality has become a central element of the gang subculture.
Impact of Graffiti on a Community
- In 1992 alone, the City of Los Angeles spent more than $15 million on graffiti eradication. This figure does not include the volunteer time devoted to graffiti cleanup or the estimated millions of dollars spent by private businesses taking care of the problem themselves.
- According to the National Graffiti Information Network, graffiti eradication costs the public $4 billion a year.
- The presence of graffiti discourages citizens from shopping or living in affected areas.
- As established businesses relocate or close, new businesses might be reluctant to move into areas where customers would feel unsafe.
- As property values decline and law-abiding citizens with resources move, once-thriving neighborhoods can quickly degrade into dangerous places. Thus, the seemingly trivial offense of graffiti ultimately can have devastating consequences for a community.
Source: www.fbi.gov (The Federal Bureau of Investigation Web site) contributed to this report.