Graffiti is a insulting scourge that devalues the place we call home. It is ugly. It is cowardly – invariably done in the dead of night to avoid detection. And it is very expensive to clean up. It is antisocial behaviour of the worst kind.
So when it appeared in the Nowra CBD on walls and even over murals painted to beautify the place, it was particularly galling. We all want to be proud of the place we call home but that becomes difficult when apparently mindless people scrawl their silly tags all over our public spaces.
When it is plastered over genuine works of public art, it becomes even worse. You can’t help wondering what motivates people to commit such irritating acts of impotent rebellion.
Research in the United States suggests graffiti is a form of juvenile anger – a way of venting against a town or neighbourhood in which they feel powerless. Often, it’s a gateway into more serious forms of antisocial behaviour, such as gang activity or street crime.
Graffiti vandals act together, egging each other on and competing for a sense of notoriety.
When that happens, lives can be lost as reckless teenage males compete to get their tags onto hard to reach places such as trains and rail infrastructure.
Even places as remote as the Old Telegraph Station on the Nullarbor Plain are not immune from graffiti’s insidious reach.
Neighbourhoods that become covered in graffiti feel less safe than those free of tags. It erodes our sense of community and civic pride.
Around Australia each year, graffiti costs local councils and private building owners millions of dollars to clean up.
It might be a huge expense but the cost in not cleaning it up would be much greater in social terms.
We all have role to play in combatting the graffiti scourge. Parents need to inculcate in their children a sense of pride in place. Residents who see graffiti being sprayed need to report it.
We need to understand more deeply the displacement that makes certain kids pick up a spray can and deface their neighbourhoods. As a community, we should invest in strategies to divert teenagers from anti-social behaviour that has every chance of leading to a life of crime and unrealised potential.
We’d all be better for it.