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Vandalism outbreak strikes city: Rash of graffiti up amid widespread reports of damage

Arsenault, Lisa, “Vandalism outbreak strikes city: Rash of graffiti up amid widespread reports of damage,” The Gloucester Daily Times, 30 Mar 2005, p. A1, A5.
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We may expect some outbreaks of excessive behavior when spring hits. But it never hit Gloucester (home of movie, “The Perfect Storm”) in March of ’05. And the outbreaks went beyond what might be expected.


A Main Street shopkeeper didn’t think much of the beer cans she found in her alley until she noticed spray-painted graffiti on a window of an adjoining store and a protective metal plate pried off the bottom of her door. A Middle-Street resident came out to find his white van spray-painted green on its side and back. “Because it was white, maybe they thought it was an open canvas. I don’t of any enemies I have.”


Police reported the graffiti was rather widespread, and some of it gang-related, as gangs from Lynn attempt to threaten or recruit Gloucester youth.


Mail boxes were set on fire in East Gloucester… vandals stuffed lit flares inside them.  More than a dozen car windshields and storefront windows were smashed… one night.


Other reports of vandalism litter the city’s police log nearly every day, including windows smashed, tires slashed, obscene pictures and messages scribbled in public places, rearview mirrors ripped off postal vehicles, and mail thrown from mailboxes into the street.


Patrolman T.Q., who investigates many of the incidents of graffiti… said the vandalism will only increase as the weather gets warmer and school lets out for the summer. (The recent rash of vandalism, however, occurred even with very cold weather.)


Although the police keep pictures of all graffiti, it is not easy to determine if some of it is gang related or not. It is difficult to prevent being vandalized. The best response is to clean it up as soon as possible.


One city councilor who has been conferring with police said:


The only thing I can say is we have to take charge. We can’t just let it keep going and going. They should not get away with just saying you can do community service. That’s not enough. The penalties for those caught vandalizing property should be stricter.


A conviction for tagging can lead to two days in jail, a $1,500 fine and a driver’s license suspension of one year. For juvenile offenders, conviction may mean counseling and community service instead.





1.   What do you think about this issue and how it was treated in this article?

2.   We are dealing here with intrusion on private property and some rather serious damage and costs. How would you deal with it?

3.   What factors produce vandalism?

4.   How, in your opinion, can it be best countered?





1.   A documentary, “Style Wars,” pits the taggers (graffiti artists of NYC) against Koch, the mayor of New York City at the time, and some of their frustrated parents. The film tends to appreciate hip-hop art of rap, break-dancing, and graffiti and take the part of the kids against the establishment. The argument of the city was that it cost one million dollars of public money to clean up one subway car and that most people considered the art as an unattractive nuisance. The young artists, on the other hand, had little opportunity to express themselves and their artistic gifts.

2.   Outbreaks of youthful antisocial should be dealt with in concert with non-offending and offending young people. We have much to learn from them about their lives and perceptions of society around them. They need us to help them think things through and move to positive successes.


Dean Borgman   c. CYS