The Problem of Graffiti Vandalism in the Park

Abstract

The Briarwood neighborhood has been experiencing an increase in graffiti vandalism in the park, which has caused the community to feel unsafe. Vandalism is a crime and should be reported as such so that the police are aware and can take action. The broken-windows theory in policing places an emphasis on these smaller crimes so that they can be focused and therefore occur less in the community, in turn increasing the overall quality of life. Many police departments suggest that removing graffiti is the best deterrent so the Briarwood community organized and cleaned up the graffiti. A police officer was able to monitor the park on patrol to apprehend any vandals and to further deter vandalism once the issue was made clear to the department. With the community’s involvement in cleaning up the park and the police officer’s deterring presence, the amount of graffiti vandalisms significantly decreased.

In a public park in the Brairwood neighborhood, there has been an increase in vandalism, specifically graffiti, that is causing the children in the surrounding area to no longer visit the park and is the source of numerous complaints from parents about concern for safety. Public safety and security is an absolute concern for the community as a whole so the implementation of strategies based on the broken-windows theory would be beneficial in this instance. This theory is based on the ideal of officers targeting minor infractions with the result of easing citizen fears and deter future, more serious crimes (Novak, Cordner, Smith, & Roberg, 2017, p. 506). By using this theory, the community can hope to deter these vandalisms and further increase the neighborhoods overall quality of life by preventing future crimes.

Addressing the Issue

The SARA model is a problem solving method that is commonly used and uses the steps of Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment (Novak, Cordner, Smith, & Roberg, 2017, p. 116). This model will be used to address the problem of graffiti and vandalism in the park.

Scanning. The problem in the community has been identified as a reoccurring graffiti and general vandalism issue in the park. It is a more recent problem and has only started happening around two months ago. This causes the children and adults alike to feel unsafe and therefore decreases the quality of life. Graffiti is an act of vandalism and “is a crime punishable by jail term, monetary fine and/or community service” (Bloomberg & Kelley, p. 4). Therefore, steps should be made to prevent further criminal activity from occurring.

Analysis. Graffiti is a crime and causes the community to feel unsafe. To be able to combat this crime, data on how often and on how many individuals are involved would be necessary. This problem type is low level social disorder and crime and the NYPD started to target these types of crimes in the 1990’s with the emergence of the broken-windows theory. The officers focused efforts on “graffiti, aggressive panhandling, fare beating, public drunkenness, unlicensed vending, public drinking, public urination and other misdemeanor offenses” and targeted “disorderly and minor criminal behavior on the city streets” to overall lower crime in the coming years (White, 2011, p. 20).

Graffiti issues are fairly easy to report through the NYPD website or calling the 311 number. Lack of official reports and of the graffiti removal in the park could be a contributing factor on why they are more prevalent now. Also, there is little surveillance or any deterring forces in the park, such as bright lights or a fence, and the park itself is very dark. As the broken-windows theory suggests, fixing and intervening the issue will discourage future crime but leaving the problem alone will allow the issue to grow. Therefore, with little being done about the current state of the park, the graffiti issue will continue to develop.

Response. The Australian Institute of Criminology suggests reducing the opportunities for vandals to offend by improving lighting and removing cover for vandals, security patrols, surveillance, and using materials that are more resistant to being marked up (Geason and Wilson 1990). The Stamford Police Department informs the public to report vandalism, increase lighting, use plants to cover walls, use a protective paint coating, consider video surveillance, and to quickly remove it as that is the “greatest deterrent” (City of Stamford, 2015). Many other Police Departments in the USA, as well as other countries, say very similar things on how to prevent graffiti.

For the Brairwood neighborhood’s problem with graffiti, the approach should utilize some of the methods mentions, starting with cleaning up the current graffiti. Reach out to the community and see there are any parents who could volunteer for the cleanup. If there are issues organizing the community, the community could contact the NYCEDC because they will remove graffiti for free. Next the vandalism should be brought to the attention of the NYPD if it hasn’t already so that they are aware of the problem and can put the area under watch. These seem like the simplest options and the most direct to deal with the graffiti issue.

Assessment. The community was able to organize and did the majority of the cleaning up themselves. The community organized a group of volunteers who cleaned up the park and painted over the graffiti and continued to do so as it was needed. A group of three vandals were apprehended on the second week by the police officer who had the park on his beat due to the complaints. The plan was implemented as mentioned and has decreased the amount of graffiti in the park significantly. To allow the park to remain this way, the community will need to maintain their involvement with the park and alert the authorities of any future vandalisms.

 

References

  1. Bloomberg, M. R., & Kelley, R. W. (n.d.). Combating Graffiti[PDF]. New York City: NYPD.
  2. PDF on laws dealing with graffiti in NYC
  3. City of Stamford, CT. (2015). Graffiti Prevention Tips. Retrieved from https://www.stamfordct.gov/police/pages/graffiti-prevention-tips
  4. Geason, S., & Wilson, P. R. (1990). Crime Prevention Series. Preventing Graffiti and Vandalism. Retrieved from https://aic.gov.au/publications/crimprev/graffiti.
  5. Novak, K. J., Cordner, G. W., Smith, B. W., & Roberg, R. R. (2017). Police & society. New York: Oxford University Press.
  6. White, M. D. (2011). The New York City Police Department, its Crime Control Strategies and Organizational Changes, 1970-2009. Justice Quarterly,31(1). doi:10.1080/07418825.2012.723032