Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2013

Fighting for Our Neighborhood: Dealing with Graffiti

By Richard Suchoski

The “broken window theory,” introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982, posits that maintaining urban environments (fixing broken windows, towing away broken-down vehicles, disposing of litter, cleaning graffiti, etc.) stops further vandalism and escalation to more serious crime.  Fix the problems when they’re small and vandals are much less likely to do further damage.  Which means each of us, as individuals, has the power to stem urban decay for the good of the community.

You may have seen silver marker script or the spray-painted words or numbers on some street signs in our neighborhood.  I have set out to halt this local defacement around my home.  Even though I have “only” rented houses on Lockridge for over six years, I consider this neck of the woods my home.  Since joining the listserv, I have heard reports of theft, break-ins, and — far less frequently — cases of domestic abuse, but graffiti is a lasting mark inviting more crime to the area.

Why do people do it?

Graffiti, from the Greek word “graphien” which means to write, actually means multiple scribbles, whereas “graffito” is for a single scribble.  It is unauthorized creations of marker pen, aerosol paint, mechanical, or acid etching.

Graffiti is harmful in that it chemically destroys the surface on which it is applied, and also attracts more graffiti which, in turn, attracts more crime which lowers property values and further demoralizes community spirit.  It can be viewed as stealing since it takes time and money otherwise directed to other projects out-of-pocket for homeowners and from taxes from the community.

Suchoski deals with graffiti.

There is some debate whether graffiti should be left alone as artistic expression.  The difference between graffiti and tagging is intent, both are still painting vandalism, and should be punished.


Don’t clean graffiti on public signs.  I do, and it is an act of vigilantism.  If I were to damage the sign in any way, I would be responsible for graffiti, however accidental.  And if you are to clean graffiti on your own property, you should always seek expert advice, since chemicals or pressure washing can damage surfaces further.

Do report graffiti as soon as you see it.  I did for defaced stop signs; an officer came out later that morning, took notes, and the stop signs were replaced within a week.   ■

   © 2013 NFCCA  [Source:]