Graffiti: Costly and Damaging
If one drives south on I-69 enough, they may begin to remember that “Bob loves Brenda” or that some bodies, only referred to as we, “hate people.” These things are written on the bridges, billboards, and road signs of the interstate to advertise the artist’s message to the general public, while drivers are left to think why should they care who loves
who and who hates what. Graffiti
is a part of the world that people see everyday and whether it is truly artful or a visual impediment is up to the individual.
Webster defines graffiti as an inscription or drawing made on some public surface. Graffiti is often thought of as gang-related, because gangs have traditionally painted their identifying symbols in places to mark their turf.
In Muncie, this is evident in the Westside Park. Underneath the bridge on Nichols Ave. is an array of graffiti, ranging from an extra-large red rose
and a bull to a flowery symbol with the term “mas mota” written painted on it, a graphic of methamphetamine lab equipment, and in the far corner, a smiling face with a gunshot wound to its forehead. “Toby loves Jen” can also be found many times on the structure. As if to avoid detection, almost all of the graffiti is painted on the insides of the bridge that cannot easily be seen from the general park area.
Other places in Muncie have graffiti that can assumingly be gang related. The electrical box of the Speedway on Broadway and McGaillard roads is covered in black graffiti with unintelligible writing. TIS Bookstore in the University Village has the same incoherent symbol painted in many colors in several places, including the side of the building and a battered and broken booth in the parking lot.
Sometimes however, graffiti is the product of people who are board. This is the likely explanation for people who have written their names and phone numbers in the bathroom stalls in the North Quad building on Ball State University’s campus. The same explanation can be attributed to the graffiti that plagues the sidewalks of the Woodworth residence hall complex. In the sidewalk, names, dates, and symbols like hearts and stars have been etched as a permanent reminder of who has been there. This type of graffiti only exists at this one hall complex on campus.
On Muncie Central High School’s campus, a reminder that the “Class 99” and “2001 rules” are found, perhaps to remind people students graduated in those years. Either the classes of 2000 and 2002 had no graduates at Muncie Central or they did not see the need in plastering the obvious message on campus structures.
The examples of graffiti listed above could all be considered criminal in their nature. However, some businesses use graffiti to advertise. Muncie Pawn Brokers lets drivers on Wheeling Ave. know that they are a “Pawn Shop” in big red letters on the side of their building. The Village Tobacco Shoppe has a man smoking an exaggerated sized cigar on their building. And the Dragon Slayer, a business specializing in tattoo and body piercing has a bus in their parking lot that is used to advertise the Dragon Slayer, A&A Custom Towing, and Bud Light. Perhaps the bus once was driven around town with people on it (several names sprayed with graffiti in the windows), but the bus no longer looks to be in good shape.
Most graffiti that is not used for advertising of a business or painted on public property without permission is a criminal offense. As defined by Indiana law, it is a crime to “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally damages or defaces property of another person without the other person's consent; or knowingly or intentionally causes another to suffer pecuniary loss by deception or by an expression of intention to injure another person or to damage the property or to impair the rights of another person.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Unified Crime Reports, Indiana reported 206,905 property crimes in the year 2000. That number far exceeded the amount of crimes in any other category.
Defamation of property is generally a misdemeanor, unless the graffiti is put on school or church grounds, a law enforcement animal, or damage exceeds $2,500 in which it becomes a Class D felony. In cases where the people who destroy the property are caught, they can usually avoid jail time if they can undo the damage they have done, pay a fine ranging from $250-$2,500, commit to community service hours, and have their driver’s license revoked for one year.
The bridge at Westside Park has the remnants of many faded paint jobs that cover up graffiti from one generation only to reveal the next. Graffiti is a costly crime, ranging from $7-15 billion a year to erase from bridges, street signs, and public buildings. And once it has been painted over, it just becomes a blank canvas inviting new graffiti. There are not many preventative measures in Muncie, other than neighborhood watches, which are likely to decrease the amount of graffiti crimes in the future.
In Elkhart, Ind., the city has a commission that designates public places and young people who want to use their artistic energies to graffiti the walls of buildings and bridges with decorative art work. This art becomes more appealing to the public eye and detracts delinquents from depreciating the wall. A program like this could be just as effective in Muncie.