Noe Valley Voice September 2002

The Typical Tagger

By Kathy Dalle-Molle

Although "ROC" is Noe Valley shopkeepers' chief nemesis these days, he certainly is not alone in tagging the city. Officer Christopher Putz, who runs the Police Department's Graffiti Abatement Program, says he has received 200 reports of graffiti vandalism so far this year, and "there are hundreds and hundreds of incidents that are never reported."

Putz describes the typical juvenile tagger as a male, aged 13 to 17, who is doing poorly in school. Three in 10 are repeat offenders like ROC, he says.

"There are also a tremendous number of adults arrested for this kind of vandalism," says Putz. "The typical adult offender is a male between the ages of 20 and 35. They've been doing it for years, starting out as kids. They grew up someplace else, but San Francisco attracts them because it's a big international city. They know their graffiti can be seen."

Putz says taggers often take photographs or videotape themselves painting or etching. "They have albums of their 'work,'" he notes. "It's something they're proud of."

Though he understands that apprehending and then steering taggers like ROC to more fruitful pursuits would be the best solution, Putz says in the meantime there are a few ways merchants can make their stores less graffiti-friendly. One is to coat their windows with a protective film so that a chemical such as acid cream won't burn into the glass. Most glass companies now offer this kind of protective coating. Should a tagger use acid cream on the window, only the film would need to be replaced, at a typical cost of $100 to $200.

Putz also believes that the cleaner the neighborhood is, the less likely it will be targeted by taggers. "They usually hit in areas where they will be tolerated," he says. "If you can, sweep in front of your shop daily, pick up the garbage, and remove signs and notices from telephone poles. The less trash around, the better chance that the graffiti artist will go somewhere else."