UT Dallas duo researches why teens tag

The youths felt that no one was hurt when they defaced buildings with tags. | File photo
University of Texas Dallas head of criminology Lynne Veiraitis and criminology doctoral student Arthur Vasquez recently published their study on teens and tagging in the journal Deviant Behavior.

“By going out and talking with active taggers, we were able to gain better insight into why they do it,” Vasquez said. “From a policy point of view, it is important to understand the taggers’ motivations. If cities try to reduce graffiti by increasing the punishments, then they are not actually addressing the underlying motivations of why they do it in the first place.”

The two researchers interviewed 25 Dallas taggers. The taggers painted their tags -- but not gang-related images -- on buildings and public property. The youths indicated that they paint graffiti because they are bored and stressed. They also wanted to be recognized for their artistic talents.

The youths felt that no one was hurt when they defaced buildings with tags and some justified their graffiti by saying they were providing work for the cleanup crews. They believed that the tags were easy to remove.

"They’re teenagers, and they get bored,” Vieraitis said. “They find a lot of satisfaction in tagging. It’s exciting, it’s status-enhancing and it becomes addicting.”

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