I despise graffiti. It is not art, it is vandalism. It is not a youthful prank, it is a crime. It is not harmless, it is costly to remove. Richmond is under attack by graffiti vandals and I’m in favor of the severest of punishments.
Style Weekly’s Melissa Scott Sinclair wrote a piece about the city losing another graffiti battle atop the Martin Luther King Bridge as it crosses over Shockoe Valley. That is a prominent spot in the city for people driving through on Interstate 95 and the type of blight that Richmond does not need.
Richmond’s taggers don’t waste any time. They do, however, waste city money. One week and one day after a city crew painted over the enormous tags on the [MLK bridge] over Interstate 95 — an operation that cost around $1,500 — it was tagged again. The new tags, spelling SIGH in orange and gold letters about 6 feet high, are painted right above two of the bridge’s massive supports, one facing north and one facing south.
What really got me was the quote from Environmental Officer Chelsea Ferguson, who handles graffiti investigations in the Fourth Precinct:
“It’s certainly a heaven spot as far as graffiti vandals are concerned,” says Ferguson. A “heaven spot,” she explains, is what taggers call a place that’s both a coveted canvas and a dangerous venture, where “there’s a really good chance they could fall off and die.” Taggers have to clamber onto a precarious catwalk to reach the bridge’s supports.
Graffiti without permission is vandalism. It does not take courage or guts to “tag” properties, it takes a coward. I think it must be a mental problem that makes a graffiti vandal want everyone to see their “artwork.” Real artists put their given names on their work own it, not run under the cover of darkness and hide their graffiti tag.
I’ve never found illegal graffiti to be art or in any way attractive. And yes, that even counts the well-known and popular Grateful Dead rock at Belle Isle.
I’m all for commissioned unique public art. For example, there is a colorful mural on the side of a building at Hull and Cowardin streets in South Richmond. Manchester is growing into an art district, and works of this type can help mold a proud and unique streetscape.
I love looking for murals around Richmond by talented local artists, especially Ed Trask. He is nothing like a graffiti artist — he is a creative genius and his artwork makes Richmond a better place. He is a professional artist that is paid for his fantastic work. See his murals on the sides of at least 30 buildings, including Ellwood Thompson’s, Sidewalk Cafe, Kuba Kuba.
I suggest that graffiti vandals need get a good job and earn enough money to tag their own property. That, or hone their talents legally to develop skills that would put them at Trask’s professional level. Society should not have to incur the costs associated with removing their criminal activity.
There were many pro and con comments posted to the Style Weekly article, but one from “anonymous” really stuck out:
It is simple incompetence on the part of the City of Richmond to paint over the vandalism and then neglect to set up sufficient surveillance to identify any suspects who commit future crimes at the same spot. When a crime is predictable, it is preventable. Mayor Jones, issue some orders to some of your highly paid subordinates. Earn your pay.
Graffiti vandals strike wherever they fancy, and no amount of surveillance (which isn’t free, by the way) would able to prevent it. The city shouldn’t be criticized, rather we should all get behind their efforts to keep this kind of blight under control. This is the ultimate community effort, and unlike the crimes we see where people are shot in a neighborhood and no one talks for fear of retribution, Richmonders should immediately contact authorities to catch a vandal in the act. Teamwork!
Want to report graffiti? Go to RichmondGov.com. If you find graffiti on your personal property and think you may know who made it, please report it to the Richmond Police Department at 646-5100.