Local or State Problem Research Paper

Pages: 7 (2441 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

¶ … Graffiti and Possible Solutions

Graffiti is an increasingly expensive and annoying problem in cities, towns, and schools in America. It is technically called vandalism, and while it is not confined to one area of the United States, and many public and private agencies and groups have formed to fight graffiti, there are no proven solutions for putting a stop to graffiti. It is an eyesore, and seemingly mindless in the eyes of the average law-abiding citizen. But it isn't entirely without meaning because it is a way for gangs to claim their territory. That said, it is destructive and irresponsible, and moreover, it detracts from the attractiveness of buildings and landscapes.

I chose this topic because it is disturbing in a civil society that has many other problems to be solved that time and money and effort has to be put toward removing graffiti -- albeit some of the graffiti is, in a perverse way, actually creative art. I have traveled throughout the United States (at least to many states) and you don't have to look hard to find graffiti. It can be found on railroad cars, on the sides of buildings in any part of town, on old warehouses, on city streets and street signs, on curbs and in school bathrooms -- and in places where it is least expected like in the parking lots near police stations.

What is my prospective solution?

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This paper will offer a number of solutions to the problem of graffiti, solutions that agencies, schools and law enforcement have tried to some degree of success. Some of the potential solutions are familiar, some are unfamiliar, and some are creative. Myriad schools and city councils have certainly tried prohibiting the sale of spray paint, and that, while not always effective, is one solution that has to be implemented (albeit young taggers can always get paint from another town). This paper will suggest a neighborhood watch strategy, and also the use of cameras (video cameras) to be stationed in places where graffiti has traditionally be plastered on buildings and other structures.

Research Paper on Local or State Problem Assignment

Granted, buying video camera technologies isn't cheap, and training people to keep a watch out for youthful vandals won't happen overnight. But something must be done, and the only way to attack a problem like this is to put together a team for brainstorming, research how any particular solution has worked in other communities and jurisdictions, and go forward with a plan. In addition to the two potential solutions mentioned, the fines that are levied on those caught vandalizing buildings (with graffiti) should be made prohibitively high, double and triple what they presently are. Jail time should be mandatory for first time offenders, and repeat offenders should be put in jail for up to 5 years after they have personally cleaned up the mess they made.

Graffiti that is hate-related and gang-related should be treated as a hate crime under federal law.

Body of the Paper -- Description of Problem

Statistics show that vandalism to schools is a growing problem in America, and, as mentioned before, graffiti is vandalism. In the Website "Center for Problem-Oriented Policing" Kelly Dedel writes that most vandals act in small groups and are typically junior high or middle school students. When it comes to arson high school students usually commit those acts. Students that vandalize generally have "a poor understanding of their behavior's impact on others, and are more concerned with the consequences to themselves," Dedel explains (Dedel, 2005, p. 5). Typically taggers are "no more likely to be emotionally disturbed than their peers" that do not cause vandalism, so the idea that taggers are a bunch of emotionally disturbed people looking for a way to express their rage is out the window. Interestingly, Dedel explains that "vandalism is a behavior that students can perform without the risk of condemnation by other students," and given the power of peer group pressure, this is a significant face. Also, the youthful school-age vandal generally is not supervised by parents or guardians after school, but is there alone with options that would not be available if there was supervision.

Typically, taggers work in groups, Dedel explains. And typically, a tagger may believe the school (if that is his target) has failed to meet his emotional or social needs, so he targets the school -- and as soon as the graffiti is removed from the walls around the school, he will sneak back in the dark of night and re-tag the same building, hoping to make someone angry in the process.

The U.S. Department of Justice presents the problem along with solutions; and according to writer Deborah Weisel graffiti is viewed as "a persistent, if not an intractable problem. Two problems arise when viewing graffiti issues; one is that "few graffiti offenders are apprehended" and two is that "graffiti is not routinely reported to police" (Weisel, 2008, p. 1). The Justice Department blames mass media (movies, websites) for "glamorizing or promoting graffiti as an acceptable form of urban street art" and hence the media contributes to the spread of graffiti. But whether the media is really to blame or not, the Justice Department asserts that "an estimated $12 billion a year is spent cleaning up graffiti" (Weisel, p. 2). Moreover, graffiti "contributes to lost revenue associated with reduced ridership on transit systems," Weisel continues, and it also contributes to reduced retail sales and declines in property values. When people see graffiti the perception they are left with is that the area tagged is one of "blight" and it heightens fear of gang activity for people.

The problem of graffiti does not just fall under the jurisdiction of the schools, if there is graffiti being tagged on schools; and it is not just the problem of the local police force in any particular community; it is also the problem of government, federal, state, and local governments.

Body of Paper -- Criteria for any Potential Solution

There are basically several types of graffiti: gang graffiti (they mark their territory and convey threats); tagger graffiti (this can be complex street art or just trashing bright colored lettering); conventional graffiti (sometimes this is just "youthful exuberance" but it also can be "malicious or vindictive"); and ideological graffiti (for one candidate or party; or directed at a religion or race as a slur or a hate crime).

Solutions for the crime of graffiti must be compatible with local and federal laws; any solution must be based on the same criteria that law enforcement uses to solve other crimes. There must be evidence collected, witnesses brought forward, suspects arrested but only after thorough police work has been done.

The way in which suspects are apprehended must adhere to Constitution constraints; a person is considered innocent before being proved to be guilty. The First Amendment to the Constitution allows for freedom of expression but that doesn't include vandalism and the defacing of public or private property. Minors must be treated differently than adults. Local governments -- especially during this era of economic challenges -- don't have the resources to station law enforcement near buildings that might be tagged, so there has to be a reasonable understanding of the time and money that it will take to apprehend alleged taggers.

This may seem to some as a remote possibility, but a citizens arrest can be made when an individual witnesses graffiti being applied to a wall. Any citizen can make a "citizen's arrest" but just because a student catches a person with a spray can of black paint doesn't mean it is necessarily a good idea to go up that person and grab him. But in truth, a citizen's arrest is a constitutionally protected right under the 9th Amendment (Grossack, 1994). However, if a private person sees another person and "has probably cause to believe a crime is being committed in his presence" then that individual has a right (and a duty) to arrest the person and deliver the person committing the crime to a law enforcement officer "…without unreasonable delay" (Grossack, p. 2). Solutions to this problem of course have to be made in the context of available government money and resources. Also, if the graffiti is actually an attack on a religion or a race, or against a gender (women) or a gay person, it can be counted as a hate crime and is punishable under federal law; the FBI (in 2004) documented 7,649 hate crimes that were reported by 12,711 law enforcement agencies across the nation (Anti Defamation League).

One Potential Solution

A neighborhood watch program is not a new idea, and in fact thousands of neighborhoods around America have neighborhood watch programs. But there could be a "neighborhood watch" training program to bring community people together around this problem. The program would be assisted by the use of video cameras placed in several pivotal areas around the school facilities that have been regularly defaced by graffiti. There would be a central place where the video would… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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