Wednesday 10 August 2011

How to fight the crime of graffiti

Graffiti is defined by Webster' s Dictionary as "an inscription, slogan, drawing, etc., scratched, scribbled, or drawn, often crudely, on a wall or other public surface." It will always carry the name of the gang and sometimes the street name or "moniker" of the person who wrote the graffiti. If it appears that there is a list of names with the graffiti, the gang member is providing a listing of the gang members and the writer of this particular graffiti is usually the last name on the list. It is also called, tagging.

Graffiti can be classified into three basic types or styles that are known as togging, bombing, and piecing.

Tagging is the simplest and quickest, involving only the marking of the tagger's initials, symbol, or alias. This may be in the manner of unreadable writing or initials, often made with spray paint in large rounded bubble style letters. They can also use markers to place their initials or "tag" on a variety of surfaces. These taggers are called "writers."

Bombing takes a little more time to complete and may be multicoloured and detailed.

Piecing is the highest level and often takes extensive time and work to complete. Those who create these elaborate designs are called "piecers," after the "masterpieces" they do.

Taggers usually operate independently or in small groups of two or three, called crews. Crews will also choose their own name or symbol. The name may be comprised of 2-5 letters or numbers.

Graffiti vandals believe their actions harm no one. The reality is graffiti hurts everyone: homeowners, communities, businesses, schools, and you. And, those who practice it risk personal injury, violence, and arrest.

Gaffiti generates the perception of blight and heightens fear of gang activity" according to a report of the American Department of Justice. The appearance of graffiti is often perceived by residents and passers-by as a sign that a downward spiral has begun, even though this may not be true.

Figures from a variety of cities across the U.S. suggest that graffiti cleanup alone costs taxpayers about $1-3 per person each year. For smaller communities the amount dedicated to graffiti cleanup annually may be less than $1 per person. I don’t have current figures however a 2006 survey of 88 American cities gives you some idea of the costs involved brought about by this crime.

Los Angeles County graffiti removal found the cost was about $28 million. With a population of close to 10 million, the per capita cost is about $2.80.5

With a population of just under one million, the City of San Jose, CAIFORNIA spent approximately $2 million in 2006 fighting graffiti.

For communities with smaller populations, per capita costs are typically under $1.00. Pittsburgh, PENSILVANIA (population just over 300,000) spends around $350,000 annually for graffiti clean up.

Omaha, NEBRASKA spends about $100,000 a year on graffiti removal (population just over 400,000).

In 2006, the Tennessee Department of Transportation spent more than $240,000 on removing graffiti along its roads and bridges.

Denver, COERADO and Milwaukee, WISCONSIN, with similar populations-just over 550,000-each spend about $1 million annually.10 This is a per capita cost of about $1.80. In Houston, TX (population just over 2 million), the city earmarked $2.2 million for cleanup of existing graffiti in 2006.

Chicago, ILINOIS budgeted $6.5 million in 2006 for graffiti removal and Graffiti Blasters, the city's removal program (population a little over 2.8 million). This is a per capita cost of around $2.30.

Las Vegas, NEVADA with a population of about 1.7 million spends more than $3 million each year cleaning up graffiti

Building owners are now being forced to remove graffiti from their buildings under the penalty of being fined if they don’t do it.

How can we keep the young offenders who spray graffiti on buildings?

One way that is quite common in cities is many hardware stores refuses to sell spray paint cans to young people. But that is only a small solution to the problem since these young criminals who spray graffiti can always get their hands on spray paint cans.

There is another way this can be accomplished. It can be expensive to store owners but it is really effective.

The Mosquito, an electronic “teen deterrent” is being used across Canada to reduce problematic or criminal behaviour by emitting a high-frequency noise that its manufacturer claims is only audible to young people up to the age of about 25. Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) means that most adults are unaffected. The device, when installed around buildings, parks and secure sites, is being touted as an alternative way of dealing with the troublesome activities – graffiti, vandalism and loitering — often associated with youth.

When the Mosquito is powered up, there is very loud screeching sound pierced the air but only young people can hear it.

Now we all know that graffiti is painted on the walls of buildings after dark so when a store or a factory closes down at night, the Mosquito can then be turned on.

Now there are some people who say that doing this is contrary to the rights of young people and that is because they are being singled out. While critics have suggested the device is discriminatory and may infringe on young people’s human rights, some people think that this form of deterrent can go a long way in fighting those who paint graffiti on private property. I agree.

Gibson is the president of Moving Sound Technologies, which owns the rights to sell the Mosquito in the North American market. He said the company has sold more than 3,000 units at a base price of $1,100 apiece.

Gibson said he has had “no luck” with the Toronto market but is hoping that Toronto’s new proactive enforcement program for graffiti clean-up will be the impetus for a breakthrough.

In the meantime, resourceful teenagers have been using the technology to their advantage. By downloading a “mosquito” ringtone to their cellular devices they have been able to circumvent the rules against cell phone use in class. Assuming, of course, their teachers are over 25.

The Mosquito was invented by Howard Stapleton, a former British Aerospace engineer. The Guardian newspaper reported that Stapleton came up with the device after his daughter was intimidated by a gang of boys hanging around outside shops.

The “teen” setting operates at 17kHz. The “all-ages” setting operates at 8 kHz. The Mosquito is capable of putting out sound at a maximum volume of 104 dB. Gibson said that while dogs and children, for example, can hear the Mosquito, they aren’t bothered by it because the frequency does not lie at the top of their hearing range, as it does with teens.

The sound can travel a distance of nearly 40m but stops as soon as it hits a solid object. “It does not bounce off walls, it won’t go around corners; it will not go through windows or walls,” said Gibson. He insists that if used as instructed it is “totally safe”.

Mosquitos have been installed Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge and Barrie. Gibson has said that Toronto is one of the only major centres in Canada that has not adopted the technology to some extent.

Walter Fischer, supervisor of parks, planning and development in Barrie, said the city had received complaints that youths were “selling drugs, doing indecent acts.”Fischer said noise had been the biggest issue. “In some cases they were actually shooting off fireworks and intimidating other park users.”

The City of Barrie purchased 10 Mosquitos and six have been placed in city parks as part of a pilot project to cut down on “neighbourhood disruptions”. The devices are on between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“We’re still monitoring the effectiveness of them but so far any complaints (about problematic youthful activity) that we would have received last year have dropped off to virtually zero this year,” said Fischer.

But not everyone is pleased with the developments in Barrie. “Sometimes I’m just walking through a park downtown and I’ll start to feel nauseous and I’ll get headaches and I’ll realize, ‘Oh, okay. That must be the Mosquito,’ said 18-year-old Nina Boddam. Why is this person walking through a park that late at night?

But it’s not the unpleasant sensation Boddam objects to as much as the principle behind it. “I felt it was very blatant ageism … Not all teens are bad people,” she said indignantly.

Barrie City Councillor Barry Ward agreed. Ward voted against installing the Mosquitos after his motion to install them on a setting audible to all ages, available on the newest model, was defeated.

“It’s the assumption that all young people are causing problems in the park and all problems in the park are caused by young people,” explained Ward. “I don’t think either one is true.”

According to Statistics Canada’s Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, youth between the ages of 12 to 17 comprised less than 25 per cent of those accused of mischief in 2009.

“To be singling young people out for this type of treatment I think is excessive and unnecessary,” said Graeme Norton, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Public Safety Project.

“If these get more and more pervasive I would be very surprised if people didn’t react and take a challenge forward to a human rights tribunal or court.”

Ward, who has not heard any feedback since the pilot project began, was also skeptical that the devices would be effective.

“They’re going to find a place in the park where the sound doesn’t reach them or they’re going to find another park to go to. It will just relocate the problem.”

In 2010, the Council of Europe recommended banning the device because of concerns it violated human rights laws. The ban was not instituted.

I believe that the Mosquito will act as a good deterrent to those who spray graffiti on private property.

No comments: