Florida Police Arrest Teens Who Signed Graffiti With Their Own Names

December began with a bit of lighter news about graffiti from Florida.

The website the Daily Commercial reports from a small town outside Orlando, where “officials discovered Sunday morning that someone had broken into the Kenny Dixon Sports Complex in Bushnell and spray painted the walls with graphic body parts, nicknames and last names.”

Because the youths had helpfully signed their handiwork with their last names, police made fast work of arresting them. Lt. Bobby Caruthers, a spokesman for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, summarized the incident perfectly.

“They are not the smartest criminals,” Caruthers said.

One day, science may discover why young men are so determined to sneak around in the dead of night to spray paint their names and “graphic body parts” all over town. But already, as part of city beautification projects around North America, cities, non-profit organizations, and schools are looking for more positive ways to direct that energy.

A Tale of Two Cities: Stop Graffiti and Enrich Your Surroundings
In upstate New York the group WALL/THERAPY recruits local graffiti artists to paint public murals in pre-approved buildings. The group describes itself as a “public community-level intervention using mural art as a vehicle to address our collective need for inspiration.”

Similar organizations operate in other parts of the country, trying to tap into the urge that drives young taggers by diverting them towards non-destructive city beautification projects.

This July in Renton, Washington, a group of community leaders launched the latest in a series of community art projects featuring work by local teens. Jason Vo was one of 13 high schoolers who submitted designs for downtown traffic cabinet wraps made from anti-graffiti film.

“I designed my wrap like this because I wanted to make it colorful in order to represent the diverse community that I am enveloped by at Renton High School,” Jason said. “The basic colors Red, Blue, and Green: these represent a few of the multitude of races that I am surrounded by. The diamonds represent the fact that every race is a treasure, no matter what their appearance is.”

Renton is just one of the many cities in North America using new anti graffiti laminate, a type of graffiti resistant film, in community art projects. These innovative wraps can be printed with custom designs and turned into eye-catching street murals. By soliciting help from the public, cities can remove graffiti and let teens participate in community art projects at the same time.

At present, nearly 75% of signs are replaced because of vandalism, and utility traffic cabinets are common targets for taggers. Traffic signs should last for a decade or more, but cities end up paying between $200 and $500 to constantly clean vandalized signs, despite fines of up to $500 and penalties that can include 30 days in jail. Hopefully, these anti-graffiti efforts and art projects will offer a positive incentive to steer clear.

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