Gangs & Graffiti

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Gangs are organized groups of people who commit crimes. They can be organized around race or ethnic groups, money-making activities, or territory.


City of Greensboro Ordinance Section 18-8:

Graffiti defined

Graffiti shall mean writings, drawings, inscriptions, figures, or marks of paint, ink, chalk, dye or other similar substances on public or private building, sidewalks, streets, structures, or places which are not authorized or permitted by the property owner or possessor. For the purpose of this chapter, graffiti shall include drawings, writings, markings, or inscriptions regardless of the content or the nature of materials used in the commission of the act. However, it shall not be construed to prohibit temporary, easily removable chalk or other water soluble markings on public or private sidewalks, streets or other paved surfaces which are used in connection with traditional children's activities, such as drawings, or bases for stickball, kickball, handball, hopscotch or similar activities, nor shall it be construed to prohibit temporary, easily removable chalk or other water soluble markings used in connection with any lawful business or public purpose or activity.

Graffiti prohibited

It shall be unlawful for any person to write, paint, inscribe, scratch, scrawl, spray, place or draw graffiti of any type on any public or private building, streets, sidewalks, structure or any other real or personal property. Any person convicted of a violation of this paragraph shall be fined not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) for a first offense and five hundred dollars ($500) for a second and subsequent offenses. In addition to any other punishment imposed, the court shall order the person convicted of a violation of this section to make restitution to the victim for the damage or loss suffered by the victim as a result of the offense. The court may determine the amount, terms, and conditions, of the restitution.

Removal of graffiti

It shall be unlawful for any person owning property, acting as manager or agent for the owner of property, or in possession or control of property to fail to remove or effectively obscure any graffiti upon such property. Any such person convicted of a violation of this paragraph shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars ($100). In determining the fine to be imposed, the court may consider the efforts, if any, taken by the violator to remove or effectively obscure the graffiti during the preceding calendar year. The mandatory fine provided in this section shall not apply to a property owner, agent, manager, or possessor of property if such property owner, agent, manager or possessor has been victimized two or more times by graffiti within any calendar year and, during such time, has removed or effectively obscured such graffiti from the property in a timely manner.

Did You Know

Most gang members are male; they range in age from 8 to 22 years old. Young people give various reasons for joining gangs. Among the most common:
  • To belong to a group
  • For protection
  • To earn money
  • For excitement
  • To be with friends
  • Family tradition
Gangs signal their existence and solidarity through clothing, head coverings, a special vocabulary, tattoos, hand signs and tagging their territory with graffiti. "Gangsta" rap paints a realistic picture of daily gang activity. The lyrics glorify violence, abuse of women, and disrespect for authority, especially the police. Its popularity among the young has helped speed the culture of gangs, cutting across class, economic, racial and geographic lines.

Signs That Your Child Might Be in a Gang

  • Changes in type of friends
  • Changes in dress habits, such as wearing the same color combination all the time
  • Gang symbols on books or clothing
  • Tattoos
  • Secretiveness about activities
  • Extra cash from unknown sources
  • Carrying a weapon
  • Declining interest in school and family
  • Being arrested or detained by the police
What Parents Can Do
  • Show your child love with lots of hugs and reassurance.
  • Talk with and listen to your child.
  • Supervise your children's activities.
  • Help them get involved in athletics or other activities that interest them.
  • Know about your child's friends and their friend's families.
  • Put a high value on education and help your child do his or her best in school.
  • Do everything possible to prevent him/her from dropping out.
  • Talk about your values and why you think gangs are dangerous.
  • Discuss violence, drug dealing, hatred of other groups for no reason, and the likelihood of being arrested and imprisoned.
  • Report all graffiti vandalism by calling the City's Contact Center at 373-CITY (2489). 
  • Clean-up often has to be done again and again, but patience and persistence pay off. If an area you have cleaned up becomes covered in graffiti again, remove it as quickly as possible. The goal is to deny the vandal the chance to display his work. Successful programs remove graffiti within 24 hours.
  • If the graffiti is on your property, remove it immediately. If it is on county or state property, law enforcement should be able to help you contact the owners.
  • Try to start a "Graffiti Hotline" in your community.
  • Landscaping is an attractive, natural deterrent to graffiti activity. If an area is continually hit by graffiti, consider planting the area in a way that discourages access.
What Communities Can Do
  • Develop positive alternatives: after-school, weekend, and summer activities where children and teens can learn, expand their world and have fun.
  • Encourage parents to talk to one another through school forums, social events, networks, parenting classes, and support groups.
  • Cooperate with police and other agencies. Report suspicious activity and set up a Community Watch. Volunteer to clean up graffiti.
  • Get organized and show gangs that your neighborhood has zero tolerance for their activities. Your community has many resources that can work together against gangs, including law enforcement, civic groups, religious congregations, schools, youth agencies, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and YWCA, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, drug treatment services, and community centers.
  • Notify property owners of ordinances that require them to keep their property graffiti-free.
  • Coat walls with special paint products and surfaces that make them easier to clean or that do not allow spray paint to stick.
  • Contact merchants and request that they not sell items that endorse or glorify graffiti.
  • Ask local hardware stores not to sell spray paint to minors. Request that they place spray paint and paint markers in areas where they can be monitored by employees.
  • Ask utility/power companies to remove graffiti from their property and equipment. Request transportation services do the same.
  • Organize a community clean-up.
Other Resources
Web Links

Boys and Girls Clubs of America
This is the official site for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. "Club programs and services promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence."

National PTA
This is the official site for the National PTA. "National PTA is the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the United States. A not-for-profit association of parents, educators, students, and other citizens active in their schools and communities, PTA is a leader in reminding our nation of its obligations to children."

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