What is Graffiti?

The term graffiti comes from the Greek word graphein, which means, “to write”. Graffiti is the name for lettering or images painted or scratched on fences, buildings, overpasses, train cars, and other surfaces. There are four types of graffiti: hip-hop, gang, hate, and generic. Graffiti is unsightly damage or vandalism done without permission and it is against the law.

There are five primary motivating factors for graffiti vandalism: fame, rebellion, self-expression, power, and marking territory. Most national studies show that street level graffiti is created by suburban adolescents, predominately male, between the ages of 12 and 19.

Spray paint and markers are used most commonly to mark a surface on or near the boundaries of a gang’s territory to indicate their presence to other gangs. These markings are also commonly used to communicate with other gangs. Graffiti can range from simple, one-color monikers (like a nickname), called “tags”, repeated on many surfaces to complex compositions of several colors.

Graffiti sends the signal that nobody cares, attracting other forms of crime and street delinquency to the neighborhood and decreasing a resident’s feeling of safety. Communities with graffiti see a decrease in property values and a loss of business growth and tourism. Cleaning up graffiti drains tax dollars and funds that could be used for other community improvements, such as parks, roads, and schools.

The most effective way to prevent graffiti is to report it and remove it promptly. Studies show that removal within 24 to 48 hours results in a nearly zero rate of reoccurrence. Graffiti affects everyone and all areas of our County. You can do something about graffiti in Gwinnett: Report it, remove it, prevent it.

  • FACT: Graffiti is costly. It’s estimated that $1 – $3 per taxpayer per year is spent each year by communities, public transit departments, residents, and businesses to remove graffiti or repair the damage it causes.
  • FACT: Graffiti prevention efforts work. The most effective way to prevent graffiti is to remove it promptly. Studies show that removal within 24-48 hours results in a nearly zero rate of occurrence.
  • FACT: Graffiti is not a “victimless” crime. Everyone – children, parents, business owners, and taxpayers – is hurt by it. When left untouched, graffiti sends the wrong message – that we cannot keep order in our community. This negatively affects property values by as much as 15% and often leads to more serious crimes.
  • FACT: Graffiti hurts business. Many people associate graffiti with the general decline of an area, even if it is not true. Merchants often lose business because customers feel the neighborhood or shopping area is no longer safe.
  • FACT: Graffiti is not just a harmless teenage phase. While most graffiti is done by youths whose ages range from pre-teens to early 20s, graffiti vandals are at an increased risk of becoming involved in shoplifting or other criminal activity, drugs, and being injured while “tagging” dangerous locations. They can also be assaulted if they mark over someone else’s “tag.”
  • FACT: Graffiti is frequently gang-related. While all graffiti may not be caused by gang members, gangs often use graffiti as a form of communication or to threaten other gangs by “marking their territory.” After assessing the graffiti in Gwinnett, gang graffiti is the most prevalent type of graffiti and is on the rise in our county.

Gwinnett County Graffiti Ordinance

In 2005, Gwinnett County adopted a graffiti eradication ordinance, which requires the removal of graffiti from property within 72 hours. Owners that fail to comply with the ordinance can be found responsible for the cost incurred in the removal of the graffiti by authorities.

Gwinnett County Graffiti Ordinance