The Writing on Our Walls: Finding Solutions Through Distinguishing Graffiti Art from Graffiti Vandalism

This Note argues that outlawing graffiti completely is not an effective solution. The only effective means of controlling graffiti is to develop laws and policies which accommodate graffiti art while discouraging graffiti vandalism and which attack the root causes of graffiti. Part I briefly outlines the origins of graffiti. Part II describes the different types of graffiti and the motivations of their respective creators. Part III analyzes the arguments for and against the legalization of certain types of graffiti and concludes that, because of the multitude of different types of graffiti, both graffiti proponents and opponents have meritorious arguments that need to be addressed. Part IV details the methods that cities and states have used to prevent graffiti and concludes that most methods do not discourage graffiti vandalism but do endanger legitimate graffiti art by failing to account for the motivations that drive graffiti’s creation. Part V proposes comprehensive legislation and policies which take into account the causes of graffiti and thereby work towards the eradication of vandalism while preserving graffiti art. This Note concludes that because of the costs saved in the long term, all of the proposed solutions are feasible, even when fiscal resources are limited.