Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to graffiti, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Reducing Rewards to Offenders
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
1 Detecting graffiti rapidly and routinely Permits rapid removal …locations are regularly monitored Requires commitment and resources — efforts should not be piecemeal; can involve employees, police, citizens, hotlines, and other means
2 Removing graffiti rapidly Reduces time graffiti is visible, thus thwarting offenders' objective of having graffiti be widely seen …removal is very quick and consistent Removal may be expensive, difficult and/or coercive (e.g., victims, as well as offenders, may be sanctioned)
Increasing the Risk of Detection
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
3 Increasing natural observation of graffiti-prone locations Increases risk of detection …graffiti occurs in low-visibility places Efforts to improve lighting, reduce shrubbery and improve sight lines are most effective if the area is not isolated for long periods of time
4 Increasing formal observation of graffiti-prone locations Increases risk of detection; information can aid investigations …there are high- risk hot spots Can use undercover personnel, other employees and electronic means; easily available; can be used on transit systems
5 Increasing electronic security Increases risk of detection …offenders are targeting large areas such as transit lots Can be cost effective; information can aid investigations
6 Conducting publicity campaigns Increases risk of detection …information is widely disseminated, and risk of detection increases May contribute to increased graffiti reports and extend deterrent effect
Increasing the Difficulty of Offending
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
7 Vandal-proofing graffiti-prone locations Increases difficulty of applying graffiti (may also decrease graffiti visibility, reducing motives); some methods facilitate removal …there are chronic graffiti locations Can be expensive if done retroactively; offenders may change their methods or targets; may stimulate and challenge offenders; some measures, such as using grooved, slanted or heavily textured walls, or otherwise unappealing graffiti surfaces, can be very effective; may be unsightly
8 Controlling access to graffiti-prone locations Makes it more difficult to access or vandalize properties …property or operations can support design changes May be expensive, but very effective; may best be incorporated into construction and planning designs; most effective if behavior is also regulated, such as in apartment complexes or transit stations
9 Focusing on chronic offenders Increases risk of detection of prolific graffiti offenders …there is a small group of chronic offenders Requires offender identification and follow-up
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
10 Controlling graffiti tools Makes it more difficult for offenders to get paint or markers …offenders are easily deterred, and merchants comply Difficult to enforce; offenders can seek tools elsewhere; tools are easily accessed, transported and hidden
11 Channeling behavior into more acceptable activities Intended to provide creative outlets …offenders are artistically motivated Graffiti boards and walls can be placed in highly visible locations; they appear to attract little vandalism; they may not attract the target group
12 Providing alternative activities and services Intended to engage and provide supervision to youth ….offenders are jobless, bored or unsupervised Difficult to identify and involve chronic offenders; programs may be expensives
13 Involving youth in developing programs Intended to tap offenders' consciences and create ownership …offenders are not highly invested in the graffiti lifestyle Little deterrent effect for chronic offenders
14 Expanding applicable laws Increases threat of punishment to deter offenders …laws target particular problems Can be time consuming; offenders believe they won't get caught, so they don't worry about punishment
15 Holding parents accountable Involves parents in controlling offenders' behavior ….offenders are juveniles Offenders can often hide behavior from parents; parents may have little control
16 Increasing sanctions for offenders Raises the risks associated with graffiti …combined with investigative enforcement activities Because apprehension of offenders is low, may have little deterrent effect; sanctions should be applied systematically; requires collaboration with prosecutors and judges; can consist of fines, community service or loss of driver's license
17 Applying new technologies Reduces motives, deflects or diverts offenders, or increases detection …the technology fits the problem May be expensive and require substantial adaptation or experimentation
18 Establishing juvenile curfews Increases the risk of detection for certain offenders …graffiti typically occurs late at night, and offenders are juveniles Difficult to enforce
19 Warning offenders Intended to increase fear of detection …detection is increased, and consequences are unpleasant Apprehension of offenders is low; warnings of dire consequences may not be effective