More generally, the way in which policy makers and citizens think about cities and a liveable urban environment is changing.
Recent urban development seems to influence viewpoints on graffiti.
In one of the six field experiments, they demonstrate that in an environment with tag graffiti on a wall, people are more likely to litter, compared to a clean environment.
However, Keizer and colleagues tested only for graffiti.
It is assumed that the uninformed public, as well as authorities and media, cannot distinguish one form of graffiti from another, thus interpreting all graffiti as evidence of increased gang activity, young people’s disrespect for authority or a threat to property values and neighbourhood safety (Ferrell ).
These studies draw our attention to the ways in which norms and expectations are tied to specific places, which together construct the meaning of places and of elements, such as graffiti, in those places.In London, authorities first painted over graffiti that mocked the Olympic Games and corporate sponsors, but recently commissioned graffiti as part of the Canals Project for East London’s waterways (Wainwright ).Such developments do not necessarily demonstrate a greater leniency towards graffiti.Annoying paintings everywhere, [it] should be forbidden, and the perpetrators [should] clean everything with a toothbrush. There is an exception, what happens in cities, a boring wall is embellished with a nice painting made by experienced professional artists.The citation above, of a participant in our study who describes his first image of graffiti that comes to mind, summarizes our argument: public opinions on disorder (graffiti, in this case) may vary considerably, not only between people but people themselves make different judgments, depending on what they see in which context.Given the ambiguity in how authorities deal with graffiti, we think it is striking that the dominant approach in criminological research on disorder views graffiti unambiguously as a social problem: something threatening that must be prevented and dealt with because it would cause fear and (more) crime.This idea is most common in studies following the ecological tradition (social disorganization theory) or the broken windows theory.In this line of argument, ‘disorder’ would trigger fear (Ross and Jang ).Our study engages with and critiques this line of argument in two ways.Particularly the ‘creative city’ discourse offers opportunities to rethink the value of the creative practices of graffiti writers (Mc Auliffe ) ‘recipe’ for successful cities (the 3 T’s in short: Technology, Tolerance and Talent — the latter T is measured by the share of people working in the creative sector), urban governments have promoted creativity in all forms and places to make their cities attractive.Indeed, in some places, graffiti in the form of murals is desired by policy makers to beautify locations and attract tourists (e.g. However, city marketing may also result in a ‘get tough on graffiti approach’, as was the case in Melbourne in response to the run-up to the Commonwealth Games to be hosted in Melbourne in March 2006 (Young ).