Opinion: How to defeat-y the graffiti in Green Lake

At the Green Lake Community Council meeting Tuesday night, one attendee spoke up and said that she thought graffiti was a big problem in the neighborhood that needed to be attacked in a greater way.

It’s true, it’s a problem.  I’ve seen everything get tagged around here – a real estate sign in the neighborhood got hit, and even tonight on Twitter, user @MitchSpute tweeted that a white van was tagged with green spray paint at 80th and Green Lake Way.

So what’s the solution – more police?  Harsher punishments?  No, I don’t believe so.

In the book, “The Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell discusses the sudden decrease in violent crime in New York City in the early- to mid-1990’s.  But this didn’t come from a crackdown on violent crime itself – it came, instead, from chasing after people who didn’t pay subway fares, and lowering the rate of graffiti tags throughout the city.  This was to counterattack what became known as the “Broken Windows” theory by criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling (the idea that if a window is left broken, people seeing it will think no one cares, and the crime will grow from there).

So back to the graffiti.  Why do people tag?  Because they want other people to see it.  So how do you stop graffiti?  You clean it up before anyone can.  I realize this is sometimes difficult, and it’s easier to go online and complain about it, but pick up some paint, and paint over it as quickly as possible.  It worked in New York – it was deemed was the main causes for the reduction in graffiti and in violent crimes.

Taggers get their kicks from knowing that other people have seen their work.  It’s their signature – and when they can’t accomplish their goal, they move on.  And with this, the neighborhood becomes a little cleaner, and we might just contribute to the overall safety of the ‘hood.

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