Well, there were plenty of examples of young British and Irish artists in the 20th century doing things that most people today would consider illegal by virtue of the fact that they were illegal.
One example, in the late 19th Century, involved writing political or religious texts, but not on any public or private property (this meant the police could not seize them, and could only be informed of the crime. The police could, theoretically, have found them by searching private property, but that was far from common). It’s been suggested that this graffiti was banned because the British authorities feared that it would lead to a reaction against the government by an organised group of the working classes.
In some cases this was justified – the police did have the power to arrest on private land if the graffiti were found on public, commercial property (which is often the case). But in general, graffiti remains a crime for a number of reasons, from the fact it is unlawful, to how and where the crime takes place or how long it takes to have been carried out (unless it is a small scale, one or two graffiti writers covering a particular stretch of walls, or a large group of graffiti writers painting a particular wall, for example).
How the police deal with graffiti crime?
Graffiti is one element of a range of crimes that the police try and tackle. There is the more serious offence known as ‘incitement to riot’, which carries sentences from two years to life jail. This offence is thought to be associated with the Nazi and communist regimes, but the law is changing and it is being considered in relation to terrorism.
Also, there are acts of vandalism which carry very low penalties, including graffiti which targets historical landmark sites. As well as targeting public buildings and streets in the UK, these acts can be carried out by graffiti writers in Russia, which is why a number of British people have been detained in this country as they have been involved in this type of graffiti.
What can you do?
Not all graffiti offences are graffiti-related, so if you are approached by a police officer or anyone acting in authority, it is best to tell them about what is going on. Ask questions and explain that you are not part of the graffiti community. You can also take your concerns forward to their next meeting by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you think you have been the victim of graffiti crime, there are good options available at the Citizens Advice Bureau in London (020-
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