• Center for Problem oriented policing

Summary of Responses to Graffiti

The table below summarizes the responses to graffiti, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Reducing Rewards to Offenders
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Detecting graffiti rapidly and routinely Permits rapid removal…locations are regularly monitoredRequires commitment and resources—efforts should not be piecemeal; can involve employees, police, citizens, hotlines, and other means
2Removing graffiti rapidlyReduces time graffiti is visible, thus thwarting offenders' objective of having graffiti be widely seenremoval is very quick and consistentRemoval may be expensive, difficult and/or coercive (e.g., victims, as well as offenders, may be sanctioned)
Increasing the Risk of Detection
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
3Increasing natural observation of graffiti-prone locationsIncreases risk of detectiongraffiti occurs in low-visibility placesEfforts to improve lighting, reduce shrubbery and improve sight lines are most effective if the area is not isolated for long periods of time
4Increasing formal observation of graffiti-prone locations Increases risk of detection; information can aid investigationsthere are high-risk hot spotsCan use undercover personnel, other employees and electronic means; easily available; can be used on transit systems
5Increasing electronic security Increases risk of detectionoffenders are targeting large areas such as transit lotsCan be cost-effective; information can aid investigations
6Conducting publicity campaignsIncreases risk of detectioninformation is widely disseminated, and risk of detection increasesMay contribute to increased graffiti reports and extend deterrent effect
Increasing the Difficulty of Offending
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
7Vandal-proofing graffiti-prone locationsIncreases difficulty of applying graffiti (may also decrease graffiti visibility, reducing motives); some methods facilitate removalthere are chronic graffiti locationsCan be expensive if done retroactively; offenders may change their methods or targets; may stimulate and challenge offenders; some measures, such as using grooved, slanted or heavily textured walls, or otherwise unappealing graffiti surfaces, can be very effective; may be unsightly
8Controlling access to graffiti-prone locations Makes it more difficult to access or vandalize propertiesproperty or operations can support design changesMay be expensive, but very effective; may best be incorporated into construction and planning designs; most effective if behavior is also regulated, such as in apartment complexes or transit stations
9Focusing on chronic offenders Increases risk of detection of prolific graffiti offendersthere is a small group of chronic offendersRequires offender identification and follow-up
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
10Controlling graffiti tools Makes it more difficult for offenders to get paint or markersoffenders are easily deterred, and merchants complyDifficult to enforce; offenders can seek tools elsewhere; tools are easily accessed, transported and hidden
11Channeling behavior into more acceptable activities Intended to provide creative outletsoffenders are artistically motivatedGraffiti boards and walls can be placed in highly visible locations; they appear to attract little vandalism; they may not attract the target group
12Providing alternative activities and servicesIntended to engage and provide supervision to youthoffenders are jobless, bored or unsupervisedDifficult to identify and involve chronic offenders; programs may be expensives
13Involving youth in developing programsIntended to tap offenders' consciences and create ownershipoffenders are not highly invested in the graffiti lifestyleLittle deterrent effect for chronic offenders
14Expanding applicable laws Increases threat of punishment to deter offenderslaws target particular problemsCan be time-consuming; offenders believe they won't get caught, so they don't worry about punishment
15Holding parents accountable Involves parents in controlling offenders' behavioroffenders are juvenilesOffenders can often hide behavior from parents; parents may have little control
16Increasing sanctions for offenders Raises the risks associated with graffiticombined with investigative enforcement activitiesBecause apprehension of offenders is low, may have little deterrent effect; sanctions should be applied systematically; requires collaboration with prosecutors and judges; can consist of fines, community service or loss of driver's license
17Applying new technologies Reduces motives, deflects or diverts offenders, or increases detectionthe technology fits the problemMay be expensive and require substantial adaptation or experimentation
18Establishing juvenile curfewsIncreases the risk of detection for certain offendersgraffiti typically occurs late at night, and offenders are juvenilesDifficult to enforce
19Warning offendersIntended to increase fear of detectiondetection is increased, and consequences are unpleasantApprehension of offenders is low; warnings of dire consequences may not be effective