Introduction to This Site
This site is dedicated to informing people about the art of graffiti as well as several different parties' stances on the subject. I will bring light upon the absurd laws which are currently enforced; they have been kept under wraps and have never been reviewed due to their ridiculous nature.
The Current Laws
"No person shall carry an aerosol spray paint can...with intent to violate the current (graffiti) laws in place". This is a New York City law, where people can be fined up to $500 just for the possession of a spray paint can if a cop assumes that you will/have violated a law. Store owners in New York are not allowed to put cans of spray paint on display, either - they can only display facsimiles of the cans. These are both included in Law § 10-117. Graffiti is considered a criminal mischief of the third degree crime in most states throughout the U.S. In New York, that type of crime typically carries a $250 fine, however if somebody gets charged with that type of crime because of graffiti - they can be charged up to $1,500! It's the same type of crime, however the fine is 600% greater in relation to any other offense which could get them in trouble. (Law 145.05) Why is this? I'll examine the laws involving graffiti, as well as people's stances on the "crime."
It's important to look at the current laws because they are rarely heard of. Why doesn't the government make these laws more public? Is it because the public might think these laws are too strict? Is it because the general population might disapprove of people getting fined and possibly jailed just because of a small amount of suspicion by a police officer?
The Arguments Against Graffiti (And my Responses)
The main argument about graffiti is that it will cause more crime around it. The Government looks at the drawing as a sort of catalyst for surrounding crime! But do criminals see graffiti as a "green light" to cause trouble? Not at all. Ever since graffiti was young, law enforcement has tried to suppress the entire movement.
Free speech is a danger to a controlling government. It is a danger to those who want to make decisions and let them remain unchallenged, however, their main excuse for doing this is the "broken window theory." The broken window theory is a metaphor which states that "a broken window left unattended is a sign that nobody cares and leads to more damage, more broken windows." So disorderly behavior and conditions left unattended is a sign that no body cares and leads to fear of crime more serious crime and urban decay (Reiss). Reiss is an expert on the subject and has been a part of the graffiti culture for the majority of his life. He's also a well known film-maker and his most recent documentary, Bomb It, discusses the history of the art as well as many artist interviews. The general concensus is that it's hard to imagine a piece of graffiti on a stop-sign in The Hamptons causing gangs to move into the neighborhood.
That’s saying that graffiti is actually causing more crime. Could these pieces of art actually be contributing to more serious crimes? Many people don’t feel that that is true. What do you think that those kids would be doing if they weren’t out painting elaborate designs? They would more likely be involved in more serious crimes which involve drugs and gangs. Jon Reiss believes that the police would much rather go after an artist who will just run, as opposed to a drug dealer who will actually take out a gun and fire shots at them. If they weren’t into graffiti, they would most likely be worried about getting their fix or gang related activities - not what they planned on painting next. Graffiti actually has unwritten rules that many people don’t know about and that the government doesn’t acknowledge. Artists won’t tag private residences, schools, or places of worship. They know that it’s bad etiquette to write over another person’s piece. The only people who don’t usually listen to these rules are usually gang members.
The Argument For Graffiti
Graffiti is a way for the neglected to stand up and make a statement to the public. Why doesn’t the government like it? It’s because graffiti unearths the truth - usually with brutal honesty. That’s not any good for the government, because honesty isn’t their usual policy.
Almost every graffiti supporter claims that graffiti isn't a crime and that it is actually an art form (Graffiti.org). Graffiti.org is the most popular website where graffiti enthusiasts and supporters go to share their work as well as voice their opinion on the current legal status of the art. The government would think of it the same way, as long as it wasn't for the public to see. That's like saying art is art as LONG as it agrees with what the government believes in and doesn't challenge anything that's happening in the nation. People believe that they have a right to practice it under the concept of "free speech". It's not a new and innovative concept. It's in this dusty document called the US Constitution. The government has a tendency to push that old thing aside if it's in their way, though.
Another amazing thing is the fact that this tradition of graffiti was formed by inner-city youth whose motivation wasn't profit. Their goal wasn't a tangible reward, which is amazing! It was a groundbreaking practice back then, and it's STILL a unique thing today. It's an art form that people don't do for money or for fame. They do it not only to voice their opinions to the public, but to voice their general distaste for the government as well. It's the only way that they can be heard, and that could be a contributing factor as to why it's illegal.
Reducing Graffiti and Creating Positive Outlets for Artists.
Kids in the inner city are very likely to get caught up in more serious crimes than art. Graffiti is a way for them to voice their opinions with ease. It keeps them out of trouble, and can even help them become successful artists in the future. “This alternative culture provides a voice for the systematically neglected section of society, as well as artistic forms that offer both skills and opportunities for success” (Ganz 10) . Ganz had been incarcerated due to graffiti, and he was alive when the movement was starting to gain momentum. He is an avid pro-graffiti supporter, who writes books and studies history of the subject. He, as well as many others, believe that the artists aren’t doing it to commit a crime - they’re doing it for their love of the art.
The government has tried something to stop graffiti by creating something called “legal walls." They are in a designated area where anybody who wishes to spray paint on them can do so. They were a miserable failure because they never made the area large enough. The walls were only large enough for a few “pieces” and artists just weren’t going to use them. They could spend hours and hours on a piece, and it could have just been covered up in as little as a day.
There are many shop-owners who actually allow people to make pieces on their walls. They believe that the art brightens up the city, and they enjoy having it displayed on their buildings. They have a new graffiti artist make a piece every month or so, and everybody ends up happy. The pieces can’t be vulgar, but the owners allow the artists to make any creative decisions that they want. “It's not graffiti!” said bar owner Maria Melendez. “It's art. They put a lot of work into it. I'd rather have a painting than a blank wall.”
This is all great, but what can you do about it?
Voice your opinion! Write to your local congressperson or senator. Hell, write to both of them. They usually respond in a reasonable amount of time, and you can have your opinions heard. Things are never going to change if people don't ask for it, so this is how it's done!
You can find/contact your Congressperson on this site:
and you can find/contact your Senator on this site:
Tell them that you'd like to know what the laws are in your area and voice your opinion. That's what they're there for!
It's more than just writing on the wall.