Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Graffiti Wars

An increase in graffiti during the holidays has several city officials and other members of the "keep Houston pretty" community up in arms. But the "tagging" community finds this cause for celebration.

According to local ABC affiliate, KTRK

"They chose a nice spot, a spot near the freeway where the visibility is good and they did it big," said photographer Marco Torres.

Torres is a photographer who focuses on urban culture on his Web site.

"I myself can't do this art, and that's why I document it because I love it," he said.

"It doesn't matter if you like it or not, it only matters that it's visible," Torres added. "That you see it and it's there, it's part of the city."

"It's just an uptick right now and I'm happy ya know," said Torres.

The city spent $2.25 million in 2006 to abate graffiti from public and private property. Officials expect that number to grow as these "artists" seek to make a name for themselves. In typical government fashion, they throw money at a problem and let the criminals act with impunity. In the KTRK article, Torres names two of the "artists". If he knows their names, why don't city officials? And if they do know the culprits, why aren't they arrested and jailed?

Council member Sue Lovell, chair of council's "Quality of Life" committee provides an answer:

More than ever before, we call on people who mar our buildings with graffiti to cease and desist and channel their efforts to more constructive areas. Volunteer in your neighborhood. Work with a school to help younger students paint their classrooms in an appropriate way. Teach painting techniques to kids or senior citizens.

Apparently, Lovell thinks begging is more effective than punishment. Apparently, she thinks that these "street artists" will see the light and renounce their criminal activities if we just talk nice to them. But if begging isn't enough, bribery just might do the trick. In January Lovell--who admits to engaging in a little "tagging" herself--offered "taggers" the city's entire graffiti removal budget to purchase property for them to do their thing if they will just stop using other property.
Lovell isn't quite as understanding when it comes to the property owners who get "tagged". The city's graffiti ordinance--Lovell has made graffiti removal a priority in her agenda--gives property owners ten days to remove graffiti or face criminal sanctions. So while she is trying to throw carrots to "taggers" she uses a stick on property owners. She wants to give rewards to the criminals and punish the victims. She proudly inverts justice.

Government's function is the protection of individual rights, including property rights. But rather than protect those rights, Lovell and her co-horts want to take money from taxpayers to literally cover up a crime. At least when we are all goose-stepping to her orders we will get to march through pretty streets.

The Quality of Life Coalition (more on them tomorrow) advocates the same limp-wristed response.

The Coalition supports a two-pronged approach: (1) volunteer-enhanced clean-ups and education, and (2) the creation of a public education program, patterned after the successful Don't Mess with Texas campaign, which paid for itself in decreased litter-pick up costs.

I agree that an educational campaign might be effective. I suggest that we teach the punks who deface property that they are committing a crime, and criminals go to jail. I suggest that we teach them that actions have consequences, and sometimes not very pretty ones. I suggest that we teach them that the true cost of their "art" and put them on graffiti abatement patrol. These are lessons that the "taggers" and City Council need to learn.

No comments: