Graffiti as Vandalism

Although its artistic merits can't be denied, graffiti is still in fact a form of vandalism. Artists tag both public and private property, which becomes costly for tax payers and business and property owners.

Parking garage with graffiti


The cost for cleanup in the U.S. has not been documented definitively, but it is safe to assume that it is in the billions of dollars. Large cities typically budget more money toward graffiti removal. In 2006 Chicago budgeted $6.5 million while Omaha, Neb. spends about $100,000 annually, according to

In addition to cleanup costs, graffiti vandals often shoplift their materials, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Stealing spray paint and markers adds an additional cost to businesses.

Vandalism also affects revenue from transportation, as evidenced by the reduction in riders during the 1960s and 1970s. Even before graffiti became associated with gangs, people became afraid of riding the vandalized subways.


Graffiti sometimes has a wave effect, in which a heavily vandalized area will experience increases in other sorts of crimes as well. Gang-related crimes and violence are the crimes most commonly associated with graffiti.

Public disorder crimes, such as littering and loitering and other forms of property destruction are sometimes related to graffiti crimes. Because most taggers are males between 15 and 23, there is the concern that tagging may be a "gateway crime," and may lead young offenders to more serious or dangerous crimes such as truancy and drug and alcohol use.

Quality of Life

Vandalism is usually seen as a quality of life issue. When an area has extensive graffiti, people tend to view it as a "bad neighborhood." Nearby property value may decrease and crime may increase. Plus, residents see graffiti as an eyesore. Graffiti that is gang-related or expresses hateful sentiments is most likely to be unwelcome in an area.