Graffiti Facts : Costs of Graffiti
What Does Graffiti Cost Us?
Graffiti vandalism comes with a terrible price. Experts from the NoGraf Network performed a study on the cost of graffiti. In 1990, the National Graffiti Information Network survey estimated annual graffiti costs in the U.S. at $8 Billion. By the late 1990's, it was $15 Billion per year.
At the June 2008 NoGraf Network Conference of experts from the U.S. and around the world, the annual costs of graffiti was now estimated to be $25 Billion in the US.
Keep in mind that this cost does not include costs incurred by private property or business owners and it does not include any amount due to loss of business or decreased property value in graffiti prone areas.
Having a hard time grasping those numbers?
Here's a quick example of annual graffiti cost for one company in one city...
In 2002 the Executive Vice President of Norris, Beggs & Simpson Realtors a real estate and property management firm in Portland, Oregon reported the following when asked what the economic impact of graffiti was on his business.
"We spend approximately $80,000 per year on real estate signs. This includes the making of our signs, installation, removal and sign repair. Of this figure, approximately $8,000 represents the expense caused by graffiti, both in removal of the graffiti and the repurchase of damaged signs caused by graffiti. We are only one real estate company, but our experience with graffiti is a representation of the economic impact of this act of vandalism has on our industry."
That's one agency in one town. Think how much that $8,000 would be when multiplied by the number of Realtors nationwide. And it goes deeper than that.
While performing the survey quoted above the NoGraf Network was told by the California Realtors Association that by their estimates purchase prices for homes decreased 20% in areas that are victimized by graffiti vandalism. With the median home price in California at the time being $522,590 you are talking about an impact to a property owner of nearly a $100,000. The economic impact of graffiti is immense.
Perhaps an even stronger impact comes in the areas hardest to quantify. Decreased perception of safety, lower community pride, at risk youth, these are all effects of vandalism in a community. So well documented is the change to perception in safety when a neighborhood is covered in graffiti that no matter the setting from film to press conferences graffiti is shown in the background if a message of urban decay is desired.
Neighborhood and business impact.
The National Urban Institute has identified five neighborhood impacts from graffiti.
Intimidates residents - The far majority of the population has little understanding of graffiti culture and often time assumes that the vandalism in their neighborhood is the work of gangs. Their feeling of safety and security is diminished because of the fear of violent criminals. Sadly, assaults by vandals against property owners and other residents during a confrontation are becoming more common each year.
Scares Away Customers - Graffiti gives the impression that an area is economically depressed. People may believe a property or business owner does not care about the image the business is presenting. Customers may believe that if the property owner does not care about the outside of his store then they may not care about quality or good customer service. And the perception of decreased safety can make customers feel uneasy about being in an area that has graffiti.
Discourages Tourism - The same perception of safety factor works here as well. When visiting, tourists are usually seeking places of beauty and enjoyment in an area, not graffiti scrawled on every available surface.
Invites Street Gangs and other vandals - Whether the graffiti has been applied by gangs to communicate with their members and rivals, or by writers pursuing fame, vandals frequently choose areas where graffiti stays up and visible. The longer their graffiti stays up the longer their message is delivered. The amount of graffiti in an area and the time it is allowed to remain directly influence the amount of additional graffiti that will appear.
Attracts crime in general - The same neglect perceived by customers and tourists is also observed by criminals. Very few criminals pursue crime that brings them into direct confrontations with their victims or into the public eye. A neighborhood that is covered with graffiti and trash leads a criminal to believe that people who live and work in the area don't care or have given up. This is a breeding ground for increased crime.
The impact on youth.
The impact of graffiti on a young life is often the strongest and harder to repair. Vandals tend to develop antisocial tendencies for fear of identification and betrayal, the majority abuse alcohol and drugs, the practice of stealing or "racking" paint is widespread and a general disrespect for law or property is gained. None of these are traits or actions that a responsible parent wants to see their child involved in.
If a vandal reaches a level of volume before detection and prosecution they often face misdemeanor charges sometimes in the hundreds as well as multiple felonies. An effective graffiti enforcement strategy can result in vandals that face jail or prison time, huge fines and restitution amounts, probation and other penalties.
In one case study the vandal was sentenced to 13 months in prison, 4 years of probation with associated fees, a felony record, and $44,000 in restitution. The court also allowed for any remaining restitution due at the end of the vandals probation to be converted to a civil judgment, renewable every ten years until satisfied. The future of this vandal would have been impacted for many years had the dangerous alcohol fused lifestyle he had adopted led to his accidental death a few years later.
Again, the costs of graffiti in terms of hard numbers and its effect on society are enormous.