Graffiti can be seen everywhere - you’ve probably seen "tags" or a graffiti mural somewhere in your neighborhood. Graffiti-style art can be seen on TV, and in videos, magazines, and fashion. Graffiti has been used to express political, social and cultural views for many years. With so much history and exposure, it can be tough to understand why adults tell you that graffiti is wrong.
What is graffiti? Graffiti is a collection of words, images, lettering or graphics scratched, painted or marked on any surface (walls, buses, clothing, signs, etc.) Graffiti might be marked on things that are owned by the person who creates graffiti, or things that other people own.
Is graffiti wrong? At gangfree.org, we focus on two things:
(1) the consequences of putting up graffiti without permission; and,
(2) the dangers of gang graffiti
Know the laws. The California state law says that a person cannot mark up, damage, or destroy other peoples' property without their permission. This is called "vandalism", and it's against the law. Vandalism costs you and your parents a lot of money to clean it up. In Los Angeles county, a tagger (and their parent or guardian) could face up to a $1,000 fine and could be charged with felony vandalism if they put up graffiti without permission.
Tagging property without permission is against the law. You might think “taggers” are legit because they don’t call themselves gang members. You might say that taggers design some really cool pieces. But remember, no matter how cool it may seem, tagging IS wrong when it’s done without permission. That’s when it becomes a form of vandalism.
Gang graffiti is not art work - and it's not safe. Gang graffiti is a combination of symbols or words used by gangs to threaten people, mark territory or promote violence. This is how gangs send messages to each other, or to other rival gangs, and how they bully innocent people. Graffiti is wrong when it’s used to promote gangs, violence, or hate. It's wrong when it makes you and your family feel unsafe in your neighborhood. Graffiti should be reported right away.
Make the right choice. We encourage you and your friends to respect your community, your neighbor's houses, and the law. Express yourself and celebrate the art of graffiti WITHOUT breaking the law. Get permission, first. Work with your community to understand its public art needs. Start a mural project with local business owners or a community group.
There are a lot of ways to express yourself with positive, legal art projects and programs.