Graffiti Resource Council®: Building Partnerships
It has been just a year and a half since the Graffiti Resource Council® (GRC®) was relaunched, but in that short time, the council has carried out and grown its mission of working to prevent graffiti vandalism and provide creative solutions that promote graffiti-free communities. Prior to rebranding in 2014, GRC had operated as the National Council to Prevent Delinquency for some 20 years. With the rebrand, GRC not only changed its name, but honed its enterprise of providing information, education, and legislative assistance to help communities develop effective policies and comprehensive programs that prevent graffiti vandalism. Toward that end, the council conducts research; gathers and evaluates information; develops comprehensive strategies, policies, and programs; and provides implementation assistance designed to eliminate graffiti vandalism and promote positive, innovative anti-graffiti strategies for communities. Notably, GRC is funded by the aerosol coatings industry concerned about the negative impact of graffiti vandalism on America’s communities.
In particular, 2015 was a breakout year for GRC, during which it raised its profile with city leaders and staff across the country, and refined its focus to three areas: 1) providing additional resources for communities; 2) advocating its anti-graffiti statute to municipal and state legislative bodies in place of “lockup” or other supply-side proposals that would have a deleterious effect on the sales of aerosol paints (under “lockup,” retailers are required to keep spray paint displays in locked cases or cages or otherwise inaccessible to customers without employee assistance); and 3) maintaining an up-to-date database of retail aerosol paint regulations.
Partnering with Communities
GRC has looked outward to expanding partnerships with cities and mayors to provide assistance and guidance to cities faced with graffiti vandalism. As such, GRC joined the U.S. Council of Mayors (USCM) Business Council. GRC’s participation with USCM’s Business Council has helped increase awareness of the council and has created opportunities to have direct, valuable access to city leaders, particularly mayors. An overwhelming majority of anti-graffiti laws or programs are initiated by city mayors and city councils rather than at the state or federal level. Mayors are key leaders in preventing the spread of graffiti vandalism in America’s communities. Graffiti is a serious issue for cities; it can promote crime, devalue property, slow economic growth and tourism, and damage the aesthetic value of a community. It is a problem that, if not addressed early on, will spread and multiply, causing larger issues down the line. GRC believes mayors can greatly benefit from its resources and years of experience developing effective policies that prevent graffiti vandalism.
In 2015, GRC participated in USCM’s summer meeting, at which council staff participated in a panel on abandoned lots, and showcased its anti-graffiti statute. Shortly after, GRC’s efforts as part of the East Oakland Beautification Council project to clean up the graffiti vandalism on a 2.25-mile stretch of an East Oakland, CA, street was featured in the United States Conference of Mayors Business Council Best Practice Report: Mayors and Businesses Driving Economic Growth. GRC’s beautification project, which involved donating paint, supplies, and manpower to accomplish the clean-up, was highlighted in the report on outstanding and innovative public/private partnerships selected to inspire other cities and companies to work together in addressing the economic challenges facing cities and our nation.
GRC continues to participate in USCM’s annual meetings, most recently attending the USCM Winter Meeting held in Washington, DC, in January 2016. GRC exhibits with the National League of Cities at its annual event, and this year also attended The Anti-Graffiti Symposium in Ottawa, Canada, providing resources and consultation for law enforcement and municipal authorities on graffiti elimination and prevention.
Moreover, in the autumn of 2015, GRC provided a $5,000 grant to the City of Tucson’s mural project aimed at reducing graffiti. GRC’s grant to the Tucson Arts Brigade was matched by the City of Tucson’s Environmental Services, which funded the painting of murals on five metal city dumpsters. Five Tucson artists designed and painted the murals on the waste containers to be provided to businesses in areas that have a high potential for tagging. The murals were unveiled at a ceremony in February 2016 (photos of murals are highlighted in this article), and with the success of the Tucson project, GRC intends to offer more grants to municipalities that want to partner to fight graffiti vandalism.
Finally, GRC also developed a poster, “Know the Difference between Vandalism and Art,” which illustrates that message. The poster, which is available for distribution around the country, has already been sent to several alderman in Chicago—the only city in the United States that bans the sale of aerosol paints to private citizens within city limits, and the ban has been on the books since 1992.
GRC maintains that the principal flaw in applying supply-side controls to the graffiti problem is that they attempt to change a criminal behavior by regulating a legitimate consumer product. Also, because graffiti vandals have numerous alternative sources of paint and other tools, supply-side controls simply cannot control supply, and neither the Chicago ban, nor any lockup ordinances have been shown to reduce graffiti vandalism. Instead of supply-side controls, GRC offers an effective, workable regulatory framework that clearly defines and criminalizes graffiti vandalism, and includes effective penalties for violators, protocols for graffiti removal, and appropriate outreach to retailers and consumers.
In 2015, GRC testified before the Arizona State Legislature’s House Committee on County and Municipal Affairs during a hearing on a legislative proposal for statewide lockup of aerosol paints to redress graffiti vandalism. Notably, the proposal was also opposed by the Arizona Retailers Association, who worked with GRC on providing testimony. The statewide lock up legislation that was introduced died in committee.
Other 2015 GRC advocacy highlights include the following results:
- In Gustine, CA, GRC convinced the city to reject lockup requirements for the existing retailer; however, upon adoption of the ordinance, the city council included lockup regulations for any future retailers;
- The city of Emmaus, PA, adopted “Responsible Retailing,” the anti-theft component of GRC’s model anti-graffiti statute;
- The city of El Campo, TX, adopted a ban on aerosol paint sales to minors;
- North Carolina increased penalties for violation of graffiti vandalism laws; and
- Nevada also increased penalties for graffiti vandalism.
The prototypical regulation that serves as the basis of the GRC’s advocacy mission is the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) Model Anti-Graffiti Ordinance. Based upon the anti-graffiti ordinances in Los Angeles County and San Diego, CA; Boston, MA; Dade County, FL; Rochester, MN; and several other cities across the country, it provides all the elements for a comprehensive anti-graffiti regulation. The comprehensive statute defines graffiti and graffiti crimes, imposes penalties, offers anti-theft provisions germane to sale and display of aerosol coatings, and provides abatement strategies.
Retail Guide to Regulations for the Sale and Display of Aerosol Coatings
Another GRC coup in 2015 was the upgrading of its national retail database for aerosol coating retail regulations. GRC researches and monitors a list of over 60 cities and all state legislatures every single month for any legislation relevant to graffiti and/or aerosol coatings. Over that past year, approximately 700 cities were examined to ensure that the database contains current information, and the regulations for an additional 300 cities were added to the database. GRC’s database is constantly being updated as more locations are added. It currently contains regulatory information for over 5,400 locations in North America.
A mobile app for the Retail Guide to Regulations for the Sale and Display of Aerosol Coatings is being developed and will available for download later in 2016.
Building on the success of the last year, GRC will continue to expand its efforts and strategies with communities by offering resources that highlight innovative methods of graffiti prevention through new technologies, partnering with communities in support of urban art to beautify neighborhoods and overcome graffiti vandalism. In fact, GRC has already added a “Cities in Action” tab on its website, with newsworthy articles of local efforts on murals to eliminate graffiti, abatement strategies, enforcement activities, and task forces so that users can research new strategies or benchmark their own efforts.