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Graffiti is a crime. It is not art. Graffiti is vandalism to public and private property and should be removed promptly. This page will provide information on deciphering graffiti, suggest methods for removing it, and will provide information on identifying “gang” activity through graffiti and other signs.
Graffiti is often a spray painted message or slogan that may also contain information on: crime; gang activity; group memberships; and clues on authorship. The City of Bethlehem Police keeps a photographic record of graffiti and shares information with other police agencies. Graffiti should be reported to the police before it is removed.
Well-known nationwide gangs include the “Bloods,” the “Crips,” and the “Latin Kings.” Such large gangs have smaller gangs existing in many cities across the country. Some are large organized gangs that are affiliated with the national gang, and some are just local copycat gangs consisting of a few local teens. Gang activity should be taken seriously. Gang members may be involved in major crimes and drug trafficking, or just be a group of “want-a-be” teens that need social intervention. Graffiti is utilized by Police to track gang activity, gang membership, rivalries and affiliations with larger gangs, as well has to help predict future criminal activity. This graffiti is an a example of a local “Gang Tag.” It serves to identify the name of the gang, “G.K.B.”-- which stands for “Gangsta Killer Blood”—and that they claim to be “110%” Blood. “Eastside” refers to the territory they originated from.
This graffiti is a gang tag for a neighborhood gang of youths in one of Bethlehem’s low-income housing developments called Pembroke. They are a small gang consisting of teens that grew up in, or live in, the development and hang out together. “P.B.C.” stands for the “Pembroke Crew” and the names listed under it are nicknames showing their affiliation with the P.B.C.. Gang members are not afraid to have their names tagged along with the gang name in graffiti and will often admit their gang affiliation if asked.
Just because you may have a lot of graffiti doesn’t mean that you have gang activity. This graffiti is a large example of graffiti that is just tagged with the persons initials “M.E.S.” and not associated with a group or gang. And this is just a Punk Rock graffiti promoting a group called “Toxic Shock.”
Graffiti is more than just the nuisance of kid and a spray can. It is a costly, destructive force that when left unchecked promotes the decay of the community and lowers property values. Graffiti should be reported to the police and removed as soon as possible.
Techniques for removing graffiti vary depending on the size and type of graffiti. Smaller incidents and graffiti with permanent markers can often be removed with aerosol spray cans of products such as “Goof-Off” with a little elbow grease. Larger areas may require pressure washing and the use of strong chemicals. Painted surfaces may need to be first covered with a primer-based stain blocker such as “Kilz” before re-painting with the finish coat. Your local hardware store will have many of the needed products and will be able to provide you with protective gear, eyewear, and gloves. Solvents can flammable and may cause harm or irritation if not used properly. Keep a bucket of fresh water available for clean-up. Consider contacting a professional cleaning company.
A gang is a group of people, usually youths, who join together as tight-knit friends in common unlawful goals. They may be a small group of local youths or a large group with affiliation to nationally known gang organizations. Members often take part in violent crime, theft, and drug-trafficking.
Although they may have similar characteristics, each gang is different. A gang usually has its own name, colors or symbols, and a territory which they often claim by force. For example, a gang may choose to roll up their right pants leg; all wear certain color clothing such as red or blue bandanas; all get the same tattoo such as a black tear drop on the face or use hand signs to identify themselves to fellow gang members. They often mark “their” territory with graffiti.
Youth join gangs for different reasons. They may seek money, excitement, want protection, feel peer-pressure to join, or may falsely believe the gang offers a sense of family and belonging. Gangs grow from common bonds such as ethnicity or growing up on the same block and seem to offer security, but members lose their sense of self-identity and may become involved in drugs, robbery, assaults, and drive-by shootings. Gangs destroy the community they originate from by spreading crime, vandalism, and fear throughout the neighborhood.
Youth gang problems can be prevented with good parenting, positive role modeling, and involvement in community activities. A child who has good self-esteem and feels loved is less likely to become involved in gangs. Children should be praised for their efforts and achievements. They should be taught non-violent ways of resolving problems and have positive role models available to speak with in times of need. Encourage children to become involved with community events and organizations that provide positive ways to spend time.
If you think a child, relative, or friend is involved with gang activity, talk to them about it but do not accuse them. Discuss the dangers of gangs and the consequences that may come from being associated with gangs. Show the child they are important and meaningful. Get advice from other professionals such as: counselors, community police officers, and community youth workers.
The City of Bethlehem Police also teaches the G.R.E.A.T. Program, Gang Resistance Education and Training, to all middle school students of the Bethlehem Area School District. The anti-gang, anti-violence program was founded in 1992 in Phoenix, Arizona and is funded by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. “G.R.E.A.T. is designed to help children set goals for themselves, resist pressures, learn how to resolve conflicts without violence, and understand how gangs and youth violence impact the quality of their lives. G.R.E.A.T. students discover for themselves the ramifications of gang and youth violence through structured exercises and interactive approaches to learning. Through the combined efforts of law enforcement, the schools, and the community, we can make a difference in the lives of children across America by providing them with the necessary skills and information to say "NO" to gangs and acts of random violence”