Scoop on Vandalism
Look around your community. Do you see
- graffiti-covered walls?
- spray-painted or destroyed mailboxes and garbage cans?
- broken street lights?
- spray-painted street signs?
- busted public telephones?
- missing street and traffic signs?
- writing or torn pages in library books?
- broken fixtures, doors, and stalls in public restrooms?
- shoe-polished cars?
Vandalism — the willful destruction or defacing of property — is
a crime. It's expensive to repair. It makes our communities
unattractive and unsafe. It isn't cool. Help send a clear
message that teens don't tolerate vandalism!
From obscene and violent language scrawled on a public bathroom door
to elaborate murals on a brick wall, graffiti appears in many forms. But
it's all the same, if it's not on the artist's property — it's vandalism,
and it's a crime. Graffiti is often the first sign that gangs are taking
over a neighborhood. Gangs' "taggers" act as messengers for the gang,
use graffiti to mark their turf, advertise their exploits, and challenge
or threaten rival gangs. Graffiti gives criminals the impression that
residents don't care about their neighborhood, and a neighborhood that
doesn't care is an easy target for crime. Don't let this happen to your
neighborhood — take a stand against graffiti and make sure graffiti
is removed as soon as it appears. It takes persistence, but by working
with law enforcement and other residents, you can keep your neighborhood
clean and the effects of vandalism to a minimum.
The Price We Pay
- Schools pay millions of dollars each year to clean up graffiti,
repair buildings, and replace vandalized equipment. That's
money that could be used to buy better sports equipment or new
- Local governments (and taxpayers — your parents, your
neighbors, and even yourselves) pay the bills for broken street
lights, stolen signs, and vandalized parks. We pay higher taxes
and services are cut to pay for damage caused by vandalism.
- Businesses pass on the costs of vandalism to customers through
higher prices. Some businesses are forced to move to different
neighborhoods, taking good shopping out of your community.
More Than Money
- People feel angry, hurt, and sometimes frightened when something
of theirs — a mailbox, a bike, a car door — is destroyed
for no reason.
- Vandalism claims other victims as well — a car crash because
stop signs were stolen; someone in need of help can't dial
911 because the pay phone is broken; people get lost because street
signs are missing or covered with graffiti.
Who Vandalizes and Why?
Some vandals work in groups. You may even know some of the teens
doing the damage — there's no one "type" of
teen who vandalizes. He or she might be the smartest kid in school,
or the kid who's always in trouble. Most vandals are young
people — from grade schoolers to teens to young adults — who
vandalize out of
- association with friends.
- Take pride in your surroundings. Vandalism cheapens your area
- Learn about the costs and effects of vandalism by working with
law enforcement, school officials, and community leaders. Teach
what you learn to other teenagers and younger children.
- Start a clean-up crew at your school or in your neighborhood.
Ask local businesses to donate supplies like paint and paintbrushes
for covering graffiti, or tools and equipment for repairing vandalized
property. Volunteer to help businesses and homeowners repair their
property as soon as it is vandalized and paint over graffiti.
- Write articles for your school or community newspaper on the
costs of vandalism and graffiti, their impact on school and other
budgets for activities, and how the courts — juvenile and
adult — treat vandals.
- Look for ways to use the talent and creativity of vandals in
positive, nondestructive activities. Sponsor a mural contest at
your school or a youth center. Encourage art supply stores and
area businesses to provide large canvases and materials for kids
to create murals inspired by themes like saying no to drugs, the
importance of education, or celebrating diversity in your community.
Ask local artists to attend and provide instruction and advice
or judge a mural contest.
- Start a vandalism hotline in cooperation with law enforcement and
school officials that lets callers anonymously report incidents of vandalism
and gives tips about vandals.
- Work with your faith community to adopt a street or a park
with your school, youth, or community group. Plant trees, bushes,
and flowers. Repair equipment and install trash containers. Organize
a monthly outing to clean up garbage and keep an eye on things.
Return to Crime Prevention Tips
Crime Prevention Tips Provided by:
National Crime Prevention Council