Are your friends criminals? - Page 2

Things get weird at the Zero Graffiti International Conference

The Zero Graffiti International Conference program, complete with ads for anti-spraycan spy technology.

Perhaps the most ominous is one of the tools our own city uses, according to SF's DPW director of public affairs Rachel Gordon. Meet the GraffitiTech graffiti detection system, a 10" x 3.8" box that mysteriously detects tagging as it happens by means of "advanced heuristics and algorithms," according to its company's website. The sensor's inner workings are left unexplained for fear of vandalism attempts but I've taken the liberty tracking down GraffitiTech's US Patent Office full text description for those interested.

The second and final lecture open to the public that day was that of Dwight Waldo, a retired San Bernadino cop who proudly recounted tales of shutting down legal street art shows and murals by proving associated artists had drug convictions. He described the "five types" of graffiti to the crowd, and lauded the use of the Internet for its utility in researching crime (you can start by searching "tag crews fighting" on YouTube, he advised.)

"You're going to hear things in trainings where you'll go 'oh I can't do that' because your political climate doesn't allow it," Waldo told Zero Graffiti attendees.

An hour later Mohammed Nuru, director of the DPW, used the podium to announce plans to fight for higher mandatory fines for convicted taggers, and to require commercial truck owners to rid their vehicles of graffiti before their registration could be renewed. Perhaps the political climate in the Bay Area is changing when it comes to the war on graffiti.




With respect, how did 'things get weird'? To be honest I don't know how you perceived the conference as a whole. Aside from Perrera's assumption about you and his statement, you never stated what it is that rubbed you wrong about the conference. If you were simply offering an overview of the event, then I think you may have shared more details. Presentation topics also included: Restorative (Justice) Programs for youth, community building programs, preservation of historical buildings (and significant historical graffiti) and methods of conducting graffiti surveys to name a few.

I also think you missed a great journalistic opportunity - the entire point of Dr. Spicer's 60 minute keynote speech. It was a well researched account of the dangers and crime that are indicative of being part of the Hip Hop graffiti sub-culture. This is more than a personal opinion. Her presentation is based on: more than a decade of experience as a Police Officer (now a Sergeant), her Masters Thesis; an aggregate study of 536 graffiti vandals and years as an expert in the field of graffiti investigation. Dr. Spicer supports her findings and claims with research by several world renowned experts such as psychologist Graham Martin (2006) and David Shannon (2001).

As a journalist you have an opportunity to educate the masses, tell them something NEW and promote critical thinking. This is much for than relaying the conference agenda, or presenting an 'art vs crime' or 'permissive vs. authoritarian approach' debate. That's been done to death and I'm glad you didn't go that route.

However, Dr. Spicer presented an argument for addressing the act of graffiti vandalism (non-consensual graffiti of any style or quality) as a red-flag indicating; underlying issues in the individual, their involvement in criminal activities and risk-taking that is inherent in the Hip Hop graffiti sub-culture. For parents especially, this is incredibly valuable information. Governments, youth, parents and caregivers need to hear this perspective if we want to change the status quo.

I believe that Dr. Spicer's point is that here has been a change in the perception that the motivation behind graffiti is to do art. Research and experience now tell us that graffiti is a youth at risk behaviour and the motivation is vandalism. We must see 'graffiti' for all that it is and address it accordingly. This involves law enforcement, policy makers, parents, and community resource providers.

I appreciate that you attended the conference and gave an account of your experience. Perhaps you'll continue to attend events such as graffiti conferences, art shows, court proceedings and City debates and bring your variety of experiences and the perspectives shared at these events to your readers.


Posted by Guest Kristina C on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 11:01 am

Hey Kristina,

It would have been awesome to attend more of the conference. Unfortunately, I was told as a member of the press I was only welcome to attend the two talks and press conference on Thursday morning that I wrote about, which leads me to believe that Zero Graffiti's primary mission wasn't really to teach the public about graffiti.

Duh to this:

"Research and experience now tell us that graffiti is a youth at risk behaviour and the motivation is vandalism."

The war on graffiti is largely a war on young urban men of color. Instead of criminalizing their behavior and priding ourselves on assembling vast databases of *suspect* gang members and graffiti writers, we should fix the social inequalities that leave people voiceless, resourceless, and eager to make their mark on their city in some way, anyway.

You know what's dangerous? Being born poor in the United States. Keep on funneling our government's money towards racist, ignorant conferences like these. Maybe someday someone will come up with an EZ-Wipe that eradicates devil capitalists who making money off of keeping walls blank and vast swaths of our population in the prison industrial complex.

And keep calling it "hip-hop graffiti subculture" -- that's how we know you don't. Get. It.

Posted by caitlin on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 11:14 am


Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 11:57 am

The conference messed up by putting those ugly posters on the bus stops and billboards. The message was our ugly signs are good while anything the subculture does is bad. Graffiti is bad because it is visual pollution, but so was are the signs advertising the conference and the excessive number of illegal billboards and shop signs that are just fine with Ed Lee and friends.

Posted by EdRun on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

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