EDITORIAL – Giving graffiti vandals ‘free walls’ was and is a dumb idea

(Image: ArmchairMayor file photo)

An ArmchairMayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

TO THE GUY on the radio the other day who came up with the brilliant idea of giving graffiti vandals their own walls on which to do their tagging, listen, one more time:


In general I disapprove of using capital letters to emphasize a point, but apparently some people just don’t get the picture no matter how many times it’s repeated.

The fellow I heard on air is a business person, and he was commenting on the unusually heavy volume of tagging going on in Kamloops as we move into spring.

If I understood him correctly, providing the taggers with their own space will encourage them to leave public and private property alone.

It’s a nice thought that, every once in awhile, somebody thinks is new. It is not. It has been tried. Reason has been tried. Dialogue has been tried. Graffiti art demos and competitions have been tried. So-called “free walls” have been tried.

All such ideas depend on graffiti vandals being interested. The problem is, they do not possess the social conscience necessary to give a damn about other people’s property. They don’t care about what they’re doing to the community, nor about the cost of removing their work from the sides of buildings, from bridges, mail and hydro boxes, rail cars, public art — anything that provides a canvass.

Give them a wall and invite them to go to it, and they will, and then very quickly move on to somewhere else. It’s about the thrill of thumbing their noses at the rest of us, about building their cred. They seek the limelight without their own twisted “culture.”

Forget making deals with them. It has never worked, and nothing has changed. Graffiti vandals don’t negotiate.

The “answer,” such as it is, is not complicated. Clean up after them, quickly. Track them, catch them, and put them in front of a judge. Fine them until it hurts.

And stop calling it art. Talent doesn’t matter; if they paint where they shouldn’t, it’s vandalism. It’s a crime. You don’t reason with criminals.

About Mel Rothenburger (7569 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Giving graffiti vandals ‘free walls’ was and is a dumb idea

  1. Same thing with people speeding or the ones preoccupied with their “devices” rather than paying attention to all the various perils of the road. Put them jerks in front of a judge and fines them until it hurts or offer up their vehicles to the graffiti artists…
    And what about the uber-inconsiderate motorcycles without mufflers?
    On a second thought, where are the “taggers” getting their morals from?”

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