Graffiti: It's A Crime
Houston treats graffiti vandalism as a crime, not a prank. If you are caught defacing property, expect to face legal consequences. There are also penalties for anyone who contributes to the crime, whether that person is the parent of an offender or a business owner.
- View the City of Houston Visual Blight Ordinance (opens in a new window)
Texas Penal Code §28.0 makes it a crime to intentionally or knowingly make markings with aerosol paint, markers or etching and engraving devices on tangible property without consent of the owner. Markings can include inscriptions, slogans, drawings or paintings. Penalties are assessed based on the amount of loss suffered by the property owner and may range from fines of up to $2,000 and/or confinement for up to 180 days, to fines of $10,000 and/or confinement for 5 to 99 years.
SOCIAL CONSEQUENCE OF GRAFFITI
Over the past two decades, graffiti has become a growing problem for many U.S. cities. When discussing the consequences of graffiti vandalism, social scientists and economic advisors often refer to “the broken window” theory. That theory draws a connection between the occurrence of graffiti and the residents’ perception of a diminished quality of services. Such perceptions have numerous negative consequences on communities.
The unconscious connection between graffiti and more serious crime causes property values, business growth and tourism to decline. Graffiti also attracts other forms of crime and street delinquency to the area, slowly replacing residents’ sense of neighborhood ownership and safety with fear, anxiety and frustration.
In recent years, graffiti has spread from urban areas to rural and suburban communities. Cities across the nation spend thousands of dollars each year to clean up graffiti. The social and economic consequences of graffiti vandalism attest to the necessity of abatement programs.
Things to Do
Get educated. Learn about graffiti, how it impacts your community, who is responsible for graffiti prevention and clean it up.
Report graffiti. Call 311 or the appropriate authority if you spot graffiti or if you see someone committing the offense.
Organize a Paint-Out. Free paint for citizens who have been victims of illegal tagging is available through the Solid Waste Management Department’s Environmental Service Center, 11500 South Post Oak. The repurposed paint can be picked up on Fridays, 9 a.m. – 12 noon. For urgent graffiti abatement deadlines, call 713-551-7355 to make an appointment. Companies and individuals are welcome to drop off paint for re-purposing, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., and the second Saturday of each month, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Graffiti can be found on buildings, highways, fences and other surfaces. Whether or not one finds graffiti style art appealing or unappealing and regardless of its content, if it is created as an act of vandalism that defaces other people’s property, it is a crime that decreases property values, is a drain on tax dollars and makes residents feel unsafe.
The City of Houston and several local organizations are doing a number of things to decrease this vandalism, such as painting over and removing graffiti on public property and other areas in designated corridors. Property owners are also encouraged to plant trees or ivy to cover walls and fences that have been marked with graffiti.
Talk to Us
Report Graffiti To Proper Authorities
Graffiti removal in the Houston area is handled by several government and private entities, and each has specific jurisdictions and/or responsibilities, noted below. If you are not sure of what number to call to report graffiti, the City of Houston 311 Help & Info hotline may be able to assist you or refer you to the appropriate entity.
METRO - Call 713.224.COPS (2677)
Report graffiti on METRO property, including buses, bus shelters, rail cars, rail platforms, benches and signs.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office – Call 713.759.9454 or visit www.hcso.hctx.net/graffiti_abatement.aspx
Report graffiti on Harris County property and private and commercial property in the unincorporated areas of Harris County.
Texas Department of Transportation – Call 713.802.5000 or visit www.txdot.gov/contact_us/form/
Report graffiti along Texas highways and roads, including structures and signs.
BNSF Railway – Call 817.593.7200 or 800.832.5452 or visit www.bnsf.com/communities/contact-us
Report graffiti on BNSF railcars, signs, structures, equipment and other property.
Union Pacific Railroad – Call 1.888.877.7267 or visit www.up.com/aboutup/contact/public_contacts
Report graffiti on Union Pacific Railroad railcars, signs, structures, equipment and other property.
Who Is My Council Member?
The City of Houston and several government, nonprofit and commercial entities team up to fight graffiti in the Houston area. Collectively, they provide resources to eradicate graffiti and raise public awareness of the problem. Each entity has a specific jurisdiction and/or responsibilities ...
Facts and FAQs
- While the cost of graffiti vandalism in the U.S. has not been definitively documented, many municipal governments, communities and property owners report that the cost is rising each year.
- Based on figures from a variety of cities across the country, graffiti cleanup costs tax payers $1-3 per person. In smaller communities, the cost is less than $1 per person.
- Immediate removal of graffiti—within 24 to 48 hours—is the key to successful prevention.