What is graffiti?
Graffiti is the words, colors, and shapes drawn or scratched on buildings, overpasses, train cars, desks and other surfaces. It's done without permission and it's against the law. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program considers graffiti vandalism.

How is a community "hurt" by graffiti?
Graffiti sends the signal that nobody cares, attracting other forms of crime and street delinquency to the neighborhood. Plus, graffiti drains tax dollars. Funds that could be used for schools, roads, parks and other community improvements are used, instead, for graffiti cleanup. Graffiti decreases a resident's feeling of safety. Neighborhoods with graffiti see a decrease in property values, loss of business growth and tourism, and reduced ridership on transit systems.

Is all graffiti the same?
According to the National Council to Prevent Delinquency (NCPD), about 80% of graffiti is “tagger" graffiti. Another 5% are “pieces,” or large visuals. Nationally, gang graffiti makes up about 10%. In some cities, however, the amount of gang graffiti may be higher. Most non-gang graffiti consists of “tags,” “throw-ups” and “pieces.”

What is a tag?
A “tag” is the graffiti vandal's moniker applied quickly and repetitively.

What is a “throw-up”?
This is a more elaborate tag, usually done in two or more colors. Vandals often use balloon letters, which are filled in or left as outlines.

What are “pieces”?
Short for “masterpieces,” these are large, detailed drawings. They are colorful, can include cartoon-like characters, and may take an hour or more to complete.

What is gang graffiti?
Gang graffiti is used to mark gang territory, list members, offer drugs or contraband for sale, or send warnings to rivals. It may include letters, symbols or numbers known only by gangs and law enforcement.

What is generic graffiti?
We’ve all seen generic or conventional graffiti at some point or another. It includes random markings, initials and declarations of love, social commentary, profanity, graduation events (i.e., Class of 2012”) and other non-threatening messages.

What happens to a graffiti writer who is caught? Is it really illegal?
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program considers graffiti vandalism. Typically, graffiti falls under “institutional vandalism” or “criminal mischief.”

What is the best way to prevent graffiti?
Education, rapid removal and prevention through environmental design are the best methods for preventing graffiti. For more information, click on the “Prevention” tab above.

Do legal walls really work?
Some communities, including Amarillo, have tried “legal” or “free walls” permitting graffiti. However, this has proven ineffective. While well intentioned, legal walls often cause more harm than good, and tend to attract graffiti vandals from outside the city. They may appear to work at first, but after a period of time, the surrounding areas also become covered with graffiti.

How do you remove graffiti?
The best method for removal is determined by the amount of graffiti, its location, and the vandalized surface. The low-cost method is a paint-out, which is simply to paint over the graffiti. In many cases, solvents or chemicals and water pressure washers are used to remove graffiti.