Graffiti vandalism is a form of vandalism in which individuals use paint, often spray paint, to create words or images on public and private walls and property. This is done without the permission of the owner of such property, and is often seen as a form of illegal vandalism. These images and words can be created in a number of different ways, and for many different reasons, from indicating the location of gang territory to making political or social statements about government or artistic expression. Graffiti vandalism can cost business owners and governments a great deal of money to remove, though it is often not inherently as destructive as vandalism that causes property loss or damage.
Often simply called graffiti, graffiti vandalism typically uses paint and a number of different methods to create a wide array of images on walls and buildings. These images can consist of anything from one or two words, usually intended to identify a particular graffiti artist or group, to murals and recognizable images. Since this is done without the permission of the owner, regardless of the merit of the creation, it is often unwanted. This makes graffiti vandalism illegal in most areas, and the way in which such vandalism is treated depends on the work and opinions of local legislators.
Most graffiti vandalism is fervently combated by governments and owners of buildings targeted for such vandalism. Law enforcement efforts are often undertaken to catch such vandals, and owners of property will usually paint over the graffiti on a building or wall. In some locations, hidden cameras are even installed to capture graffiti artists in the act, helping law enforcement to catch such individuals. Most areas prosecute graffiti vandalism quite vociferously, though some graffiti artists and regions welcome the work as public displays of art.
Famous graffiti artists, such as Banksey, have become celebrated not only in underground cultural movements, but in mainstream culture as well. Graffiti vandalism that surpasses simple text or images, and instead pushes to create social or political commentary, can cross over from vandalism into art. While the work will often still remain controversial, the nature of such work can cause a public outcry of support to leave the graffiti and to acknowledge the work as legitimate art. The argument that is often made in favor of such graffiti vandalism is that it can create unique and interesting images for viewers, and does not cause the damage that fires or destructive vandalism often cause.