Feature Article - October 2005
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Stunning Shelters

Planning and protecting outdoor structures

By Stacy St. Clair

Vulnerable to Vandalism?
Suggestions to stop the spray

To beat graffiti communities must go on the offensive. Here are some proactive tips for combating the problem:

1. Organize a local paint out. Local businesses often are willing to donate paint and brushes for volunteers to use for graffiti cleanup.

2. Keep your park clean. A neglected appearance invites vandalism. Make sure litter is picked up, fences mended and shrubbery trimmed.

3. Install quality lighting. Poorly lit structures are more vulnerable to nighttime vandals.

4. Plant shrubbery. Trees and shrubbery provide natural—as well as psychological—barriers.

5. Remove graffiti promptly. Statistics show graffiti removed within 24 to 48 hours results in a nearly zero reoccurrence rate. Conversely, graffiti removed after two weeks has a near 100 percent reoccurrence rate, according to the Keep American Beautiful campaign.

6. Encourage citizen reporting. Educate the public about the effects of graffiti vandalism and provide a way for them to report it. Many cities have established an 800-number, a dedicated telephone line or an Internet site for this purpose. Be sure to respond promptly to graffiti reports.

7. Enforce graffiti laws. Help your community develop tough anti-graffiti laws and make sure they're enforced. When asked what would stop them from tagging, vandals in a recent study listed "fear of getting caught" as their top deterrent.

8. Educate local youth. Sponsor programs that explain the negative impact of graffiti. Waco, Texas, for example, developed a mentoring program in which high-school students teach fourth- and fifth-graders about stopping graffiti.

9. Use an adopt-a-spot program. Some communities provide citizen volunteers with graffiti clean-up kits to keep an area they have adopted "graffiti-free." The programs improve awareness and engage citizens in the process.

10. Keep a watchful eye. Ask local law enforcement to increase patrols around structures most susceptible to graffiti. Neighborhood watches also have proved beneficial to reducing graffiti. Some communities have begun installing security cameras in the most heavily vandalized areas.

11. Provide alternatives. Here's a preventive measure that all recreation managers should be able to handle. The Institute for Law and Justice Inc. suggests diverting criminal graffiti to positive alternatives. Options can include youth centers, art programs and civic activities such as mural painting and graffiti cleanups.

12. Create a paint-brush mural. Use a community mural to spruce up the wall of an outdoor structure frequently hit by graffiti. Murals can involve local artists, students and community volunteers.