Thursday, April 5, 2012

We Have Graffiti, Do We Have Gangs?

Graffiti in the Old City, Knoxville

Graffiti has never been high on my list of concerns downtown. I see random tagging, but I see it outside downtown, as well, so I figured it just goes with modern society. An irritant? Sure. A big problem? Not so much. I've blogged about graffiti in one form or another here, here, here and here, often taking a positive view of the graffiti in question.

Graffiti in the Old City, Knoxville

I'm slowly being brought around as I understand more about the unique dynamics that are downtown Knoxville. We aren't just the neighborhood for downtown residents; we are the collective neighborhood for the region. We also have some baggage that we have a hard time leaving behind.

Graffiti in the Old City, Knoxville

Graffiti in the Old City, Knoxville

For many years, perhaps starting in the early eighties, downtown Knoxville was not a place that most people thought of as a destination. Malls were the wave of the future and inner cities were increasingly suffering from white flight and a crumbling infrastructure. Downtown Knoxville, like many other inner cities came to be seen as blighted and dangerous.

Graffiti in the Old City, Knoxville

Knoxville's downtown in 2012 is a far cry from those days, yet, we still struggle with perceptions people carry from those darker days of the city's history. When people visit the city today we want them to have a good impression, and I would suggest, an accurate impression, which is that our downtown is a safe, fun place to visit and bring your family.

Graffiti, 100 Block of Gay Street

We do not have gang activity in downtown Knoxville. This is a fact according to the Knoxville Police Department. The graffiti which some people might connect with gang activity is simply the act of random, bored teenagers or skaters who enjoy seeing their tag around the city. It is unsightly, in no way connected to the street art whose virtues I've previously extolled and it is a problem because of the connection in people's minds.

So what to do? Get rid of it as rapidly as possible is what studies have shown. If it is repeatedly painted over in short order, taggers move elsewhere. If you see graffiti on your own property, please remove it quickly. If you see graffiti on another person's property, please call 3-1-1 and report it. Hopefully, the city will notify the owners and they will take some action.

Graffiti, Union Avenue

Graffiti, Union Avenue

It's important that we keep downtown clean and safe and that we communicate that image to our visitors whether they be from far out of town or from our area. Many people who have avoided downtown for decades are beginning to take a second look. We want that look to be a good one - without graffiti.

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At April 5, 2012 at 7:18 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

Excellent post. Wouldn't graffiti removal would be a good project for the CBID? It's a public problem so it'd be nice if the cost burden of removal weren't put on the individual property owners. There are also anti-graffiti coatings that can be used so graffiti paint is easily removed. The CBID could pay to apply those coatings to surfaces that have been vandalized by graffiti punks.

At April 5, 2012 at 10:19 AM , Blogger Ally Gregory-Moore said...

About a month ago I saw a young man pull out a sharpie and tag the East Tennessee History Museum. I yelled at him and told him to grow up and stop acting like a child.

At April 5, 2012 at 2:52 PM , Blogger Andrea said...

I've been thinking about this problem as I walk my dogs through Old City and along Firestreet Alley. It is getting pretty bad through there. Then I saw this interesting article on Apartment Therapy and I thought that could be a fun way to take care of that part of the viaduct and keep it tag free. If we covered it with moss it might discourage the random tagging. I doubt officials would go for it, but I think it'd be pretty neat.

At April 5, 2012 at 7:24 PM , Blogger Kevin said...

Great Post on a tough but increasing problem. In response to Greg's post, the CBID has had multiple meetings concerning Graffiti and the CBID has put money toward Graffiti removal. It's a tough subject as graffiti on private property may present difficulty if the property owner isn't vigilant with removing the graffiti. The group City People has also contributed to graffiti removal I believe.

At April 5, 2012 at 8:01 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

I need a like button for comments like this one. I want you on my side, Ally.


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