The various articles on graffiti discuss three different groups of graffiti writers: gang writers, taggers and artists. Together, they represent a non-mainstream social group in that their writing conflicts with mainstream values.
Granted, the major problem of graffiti is the emotional and financial price paid by those whose property is defaced (or "refaced"). But it is our mainstream values that tell us it is OK to paint the name of a tennis shoe company on the side of a building but bad to paint the name of a gang. And leaving aesthetics aside, it bothers most of us to see tags throughout our city streets because, according to our value systems, it is "not right."
In order to truly abate graffiti, a re-socialization process must take place. Either gang members, taggers, and graffiti artists (among other graffiti writers) must come to take a negative view of graffiti writing, or we must come to see graffiti writing as an acceptable form of written expression. If we sanction the type of writing gang members, taggers and artists do, we will no longer view it as "graffiti." This does not solve the problem of writing on "other people's" walls, but it does get the ball rolling toward a graffiti-free society in the eyes of the mainstream.
MATTHEW B. HUNT