Have you given very much thought to the graffiti in your community? If you have, you may be a “graffitiologist.” It is a word I just made up. Many of us don’t even see the tagging that is pretty prevalent here in the desert Southwest. I don’t know if one community is worse than any other, but I see it everywhere. The spray paint pathology gets my attention every time, because I am a graffitiologist… which means I study the stuff found on walls, signs, and any flat surface that calls out for destruction. It is a damaging force in our society, and a symptom of the drug and gang culture common in our county and country.

My response to the spray paint problem is both negative and positive. It is symbolic of death, drugs, and the destruction of our youth. I know some may say that it is art, but when you don’t have permission to do your art work somewhere, it is criminal, and called vandalism. Others will say that it is the expression of adolescent angst. Whatever! Graffiti will not go away, and that bothers me; it makes me mad to see it near my house, or where I drive.

Although my emotions are negative, my reaction is positive. I worked at a school for 25 years, and I took on the responsibility of painting over graffiti on the walls across from the school. On one level, graffiti is often a claim of presence, or ownership, of an area by a gang or member. Well, in my little part of the world, I claimed that wall. Graffiti did not stay there very long. I was often out there in the morning, modeling for youth coming to school that community service is cool (even when it was sometimes warm while painting the wall). We are all role models. We just never know when we are being watched.

If you want youth to change, your communication has to be consistent. Soon after I saw it, the graffiti was painted. I encourage you to do the same. Painting over it really only takes about 5-10 minutes. If you don’t paint, you are essentially  saying, “I don’t care about the wall, or community.” If you don’t like to paint, find a young person, and offer to pay them. When one tagger sees another person’s work on the wall, they are tempted to respond. Then you have a tagging war, which to me, becomes uglier and uglier!

I keep areas near to my house somewhat graffiti clear. I even did a huge wall next to Bucklin Park, creating a jungle mural. In the words of Edmund Burke “the only thing evil needs to prevail is for good people to do nothing.” Well said Ed! I like the mural, and it also advertises my business along with others. Often art work and Christian murals are respected, and left alone by taggers. Not all the time, but if it gets tagged and painted over quickly, taggers find somewhere else to do their dirty work.

If you have read this far, you have completed Graffitiology 101. If you have some graffiti nearby,  your city may have a program called graffiti abatement, to help get rid of it. Give them a call. If you don’t have a public funded program, a roller and paint won’t cost you much. A little paint and sweat do go a long way to improving our community. It is also a good idea to hire someone to do it.