Broken Windows Ideology and the (Mis)Reading of Graffiti

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Abstract

In this article, I discuss the misreading of graffiti and misidentification of graffiti writers as part of anti-gang policing informed by broken windows ideology. Based on personal observation and autoethnographic reflection, analysis of gang identification protocol, and interviews with graffiti writers who negatively define themselves against gang members as part of constructive identity formation, I argue that relying on graffiti as an indicator of gang activity calls into question the merits and efficacy of anti-gang policing. I situate this discussion within a cultural criminological framework and critique of broken windows policing.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The complaint can be found at: http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2009/09-2135_misc_7-12-10.pdf.

  2. 2.

    Given the disproportionate time spent on policing order and “civility,” as opposed to enforcing laws or abating the commission of felony-level crimes, I hesitate to use the euphemistic term of “law enforcement” to denote police or policing personnel or practices.

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Acknowledgements

Thank you to the thoughtful and encouraging reviewers, editor Avi Brisman, Wisk One, and those critical scholars who have produced the work needed to help people see and understand graffiti for what it actually is, including Joe Austin, Tim Cresswell, Faye Docuyanan, Jeff Ferrell, Kurt Iveson, Susan A. Phillips, Gregory Snyder, Robert Weide, and Alison Young.

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Bloch, S. Broken Windows Ideology and the (Mis)Reading of Graffiti. Crit Crim (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-019-09444-w

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