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Graffiti: Artistic Expression or Vandalism?

While there are valid points made on each end of the question, two constants remain: graffiti is unlawful and its removal is an expensive process. Removing graffiti requires more man hours, equipment and materials than simply removing a sign or banner from an overpass fence.

In 2012, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Metro Region spent more than $500,000 on graffiti removal. More than $150,000 was spent alone on I-94 in the city of Detroit. For what it costs to remove graffiti from Metro Detroit freeways, crews could resurface more than 6 miles on one lane of an asphalt roadway.

Graffiti "artists" work under the cloak of darkness, making them difficult to apprehend. And as you can see, these personal expressions are not only costly but incredibly dangerous. Taggers navigate their way onto bridge beams, climb large truss signs over live traffic, or scale down steep slopes to spray a name or a symbol. And while most tagging is non-offensive in nature, it's still unlawful. Besides, in order for crews to safely remove graffiti, lanes of traffic must be closed - hindering commerce and requiring unnecessary delays for the motoring public.

Crews who work to remove graffiti from freeways are often disappointed when taggers return hours later to re-tag the same location. So we ask that if you see taggers spraying graffiti on bridges and overpasses that you alert authorities. It's no secret that funding is already tight, and we can all agree that any available money should be going to making structures safe, not removing graffiti.

What do you think? E-mail us at morosir@michigan.gov.

Rob Morosi
MDOT Metro Region Communications Specialist