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February 10, 2012 > Curbing Graffiti: An EZ solution?

Curbing Graffiti: An EZ solution?

By Jessica Noel Waymire

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so the saying goes. Many beholders of graffiti, especially when found in inappropriate locations, do not see beauty; instead, they see just the opposite: vandalism, destruction of property, and urban decay. Opponents of graffiti do not see any value in this "art" and continually seek out the best methods for its removal. How can such markings be effectively discouraged?

The first option is to just do nothing-let the graffiti stand. After a while, some people don't even notice graffiti; it simply fades into the background of life. This may be the least expensive route, but the "broken windows theory" developed in the 1980s suggests that this leads to higher crime and lower morale among residents. In 1982, social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling argued that maintenance of urban neighborhoods prevents an increase in crime and restrains criminals from creating more vandalism. "Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows." This theory can be applied to graffiti; if the graffiti is not removed, taggers feel empowered to continue their behavior.

Graffiti removal is the next option. Regular, consistent efforts at removal can discourage taggers from further vandalism. Several removal methods are available, some more effective than others. Painting over graffiti is an easy way to restore damaged property to its former state. Residents who live in an area with frequent tagging may want to keep a can of matching paint on hand. Quick and consistent removal or covering the tags is a key to discouraging more tagging.

Sometimes painting over graffiti isn't practical, such as on store windows. In this case, there are a few products available to help remove spray paint and markers. These tend to be powerful chemicals, so they must be stored safely and used with appropriate equipment including gloves and facemasks. Motsenbocker's is a line of stain removal products sold in hardware stores. Motsenbocker's Lift Off 3 removes ink and pen stains; Lift Off 4 works on spray paint, though it tends to work better on fresh spray paint. Another option is carburetor and choke cleaner which, although toxic and will cause clouding on plastic surfaces, is an effective cleaner. While wearing gloves, spray the removal chemical on the paint. Scrub with steel wool and clean up with disposable blue shop towels.

For residents in commonly tagged areas, keeping a graffiti removal kit on hand might be a good option. It can be empowering to take part in beautifying a neighborhood. For those who do not feel comfortable doing the work, graffiti removal hotlines are available. Graffiti abatement groups stay very busy and are quite prompt in removing reported tags, especially if the tag is reported as gang-related. Check your city's Web site for a local graffiti removal hotline.

A final option is prevention. The most common preventive measure is to plant climbing vines such as ivy in areas where graffiti occurs. There are some disadvantages to this approach since plants take time to grow and water and landscaping efforts are required to maintain the plants. Finally, certain vines are invasive, choking out other nearby plants and attracting rodents.

One local entrepreneur has an alternative to live plants... faux ivy.

Shannon Hendrick of EZ-Ivy, a small business selling faux ivy in Hayward, has noticed extensive graffiti in the area and feels this product is a good solution to the problem. He read with interest a Letter to the Editor in Tri-City Voice that spoke of a probable graffiti problem at the Central Park Terrace development in Fremont. Hendrick, who has been the Product Manager at EZ-Ivy for the last six months, believes that his products are a solution. Although discouraging graffiti was not what drew Hendrick to his business, he says that faux ivy is a quick, efficient, and cost-effective means of graffiti coverage and prevention.

Faux ivy comes in a number of forms (rolls, fencing, tiles) and can be easily placed over walls, utility boxes, fences, or balconies to add beauty and prevent vandalism. M Clothing, a designer boutique with locations in Healdsburg and Corte Madera, uses the boxwood style tiles as wall decor in their shops. A close inspection reveals vine rolls clearly, but they do add visual appeal to apartment balconies and barren fences. The vines are hardy resisting the effects of bad weather and do not fade.

Graffiti, when inappropriately placed on public and private property is visually damaging and brings down property values; it is classified as a criminal activity. As part of the solution, citizens can join a graffiti abatement group, plant or install vines or report vandalism through local hotlines. Let's keep our neighborhoods beautiful!

EZ-ivy product information can be found at:

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