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Graffiti are words, colors, and shapes drawn or scratched on buildings, overpasses, train cars, desks, and other surfaces.  In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, graffiti is considered as vandalism.  It is done without permission and against the law.  The term graffiti comes from the Greek word graphein, meaning “to write”.  Graffiti today ranges from simple, one-color monikers (called tags) scrawled repeatedly on many surfaces, to complex compositions of many colors taking up entire walls.

Types of graffiti
According to the National Council to Prevent Delinquency (NCPD), about 80% of graffiti is “tagger graffiti”.  Another 5% are “pieces,” or large visuals.  Nationally, gang graffiti makes up about 10%.  In some cities, however, the amount of gang graffiti may be higher.  Gang graffiti is used to mark gang territory, list members, offer drugs or contraband for sale, or send warnings to rivals.  It may include letters, symbols, or numbers known only by gangs and law enforcement.

Non-gang graffiti consists mostly of:
• Tags – graffiti consisting of a vandal’s moniker or nickname, applied quickly and repetitively.
• Throw-ups – more elaborate tags, usually done in two or more colors.  Vandals often use balloon letters, which are filled in or left as outlines.
• Pieces – short for “masterpieces,” these are large, detailed drawings.  They are colorful, can include cartoon-like characters, and may take an hour or more to complete.

Generic graffiti or conventional graffiti has no particular style and may include random markings, initials, declarations of love, social commentary, profanity, events (“Class of 1997”), and other non-threatening messages.  Ideological or hate graffiti, on the other hand, includes any racial, religious, or cultural slur.

How is a community “hurt” by graffiti?
Graffiti in a community sends the signal that nobody cares, attracting other forms of crime and street delinquency to the neighborhood.  The presence of graffiti decreases residents’ feeling of safety.  Neighborhoods with graffiti see a decrease in property values, loss of business growth and tourism, and reduced ridership on transit systems.

Graffiti also drains tax dollars, because funds that could be used for schools, roads, parks, and other community improvements are instead used for graffiti cleanup.

Graffiti removal and restoration
Incorrect methods of graffiti removal can leave surfaces looking worse than before restoration.  Follow these steps to ensure successful removal and to protect surfaces from further degradation:

  1. Identify the surface type and substance to be removed.

Common areas defaced by graffiti include brick, stone, concrete, aluminum siding, utility boxes and poles, street signs, bus shelters, pavement, wood, and glass.  While most vandals use spray paint, some also use markers, adhesives (stickers), shoe polish, lip stick, stencils, and etching products.  The longer the graffiti is left on a surface, the more difficult it is to remove it.

  1. Select the appropriate removal method.

Except for paint, graffiti removers are often specialty industrial products sold in bulk to cities, counties, or professional graffiti removal companies.  Some cities have established removal and restoration guidelines to maintain the structural integrity of the city's architecture, especially for old buildings or other structures that are historically significant.  Be familiar with any local guidelines.
Three of the most common removal methods are paint-out (using paint to cover graffiti on smooth, painted surfaces); chemical removal (using solvents to dissolve or remove graffiti); and pressure washing (using pressurized water or in combination with solvents to wash off the graffiti).

  1. Apply a protective coating.

Prevention is better than cure.  But if the surface does not have a protective coating, make sure it gets one after graffiti has been removed from the surface.  Sacrificial coatings are protective, but come off when graffiti is removed and must be reapplied.  Non-sacrificial or permanent anti-graffiti coatings are unaffected by the graffiti removal process and remain on the surface.

For more answers to your questions about graffiti removal, contact Freedom Restoration at 410-451-7110 or click here.






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