Graffiti is not art- it is a crime.

Maine State law classifies graffiti as Criminal Mischief:

M.R.S.A Title 17-A sec. 806 – A person is guilty of criminal mischief if that person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly:

  1. Damages or destroys the property of another, having no reasonable grounds to believe that the person has the right to do so; damages or destroys property to enable any person to collect insurance proceeds for the lost cause; or tampers with the property of another, having no reasonable grounds to believe that the person has a right to do so, and thereby impairs the use of that property.

Criminal mischief is a class D crime

Graffiti costs hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. If there is rampant graffiti in a community, it tends to lower property values and hinders responsible buyers from investing in the community.

Five types of Graffiti

  1. Latrinalia – Writing on the bathroom wall, including comments, signatures and political / social comments.
  2. Folk Epigraphy – Political / social writings in response to emergency situations or political legislation.
  3. Tagging – This work is comprised of both adults and youths that refer to them as "taggers". They gain "fame" and status from other taggers by painting their "tags" in as many places as possible.
  4. Gang Graffiti – Done by gangs to mark territories and boundaries.
  5. Hate / Satanic Graffiti – used to shock or recruit members or followers.

Tagger Graffiti is the majority of what we experience in South Portland. A tagger adopts a tag and then writes or paints it on private and public property. Tagger writing usually resembles handwriting and is sometimes so stylized that it is difficult to read. Letters are commonly intertwined and cartoon-type drawings often accompany a tag.

Tagger graffiti is not territorial since the taggers are determined

Example of graffiti that has appeared in the area
to place as many tags as possible throughout an area to seek recognition among their peers.

Taggers sometimes tag as part of a group or a "crew". Most crew graffiti shows the crew name and the tag crew. A tag crew can be identified by the initials scrawled somewhere in the tag. There are usually three initials, but sometimes two or four.

Thrill seeking is another motivating factor for some taggers. Taggers often damage property quite simply for the thrill of overcoming the fear of getting caught and, in some cases, the fear of high places. Although it sounds odd to most adults, it can be a very strong motivator for taggers, most of whom are under 18.

Graffiti sends a message that nobody cares and attracts other forms of crime to a neighborhood. The appearance of graffiti heightens resident fear and is often perceived as a sign that the downward spiral has begun, even though this may not be true

Graffiti Prevention Tips for Homeowners

Keep up appearances
Make every effort to keep the appearance of your residence clean and neat, an exterior appearance that suggests apathy and neglect attracts vandals. Litter, graffiti, broken fences, overgrown landscape and poor lighting all send a message to taggers that property owners are not attentive or do not care.

Rapid removal
Rapid and continual removal of graffiti is the best way for homeowners to protect and preserve the image of their neighborhood. Studies show that removal within 24 to 48 hours' results in a nearly zero rate of reoccurrence. Also work with the City to ensure that graffiti is removed rapidly from public areas and businesses near your residence.

Build in prevention

  • Incorporate shrubs, thorny plants, and vines to restrict tagger access to residence walls, fences, sheds, garages and other graffiti targets.
  • Add or improve lighting around your property. Ask the city to install lighting in neighborhood areas that are dark and often hit with graffiti.
  • For condo owners and apartment renters, work with residential property managers to incorporate graffiti prevention into building security.
  • Work with neighbors and law enforcement
  • Organize a neighborhood crime watch to help the police keep tabs on criminal activity in your neighborhood.
  • Ask the police department to step up security in your neighborhood, especially if there are alleys, unlit areas, vacant properties, or other graffiti targets near your residence.

Dedicate a neighborhood association meeting to graffiti prevention, Invite law enforcement.
What should a homeowner do if their property is hit with graffiti?

Report: Contact the South Portland Police department to report the graffiti vandalism. Make sure to complete an incident report, a common requirement of insurance companies.
Identify: Work with the South Portland Police department to identify taggers or gangs doing the graffiti.
Document: Take a picture of the graffiti before it is removed. Photographs will assist the South Portland Police department in their investigation.
Remove. Remove graffiti promptly and completely.

How should a homeowner remove the graffiti?

Paint out: On painted surfaces, painting over graffiti is a low-cost removal method. Be sure to color match the paint to the surface or completely cover the surface. A patchwork of paint or a large block of different color paint is an ideal canvas and will invite more graffiti.
Chemical removal: This method employs some type of solvent to remove graffiti
Power washing: This removes graffiti by applying water, usually hot, under pressure.

The information listed on this website will assist with formulating a unified community policing approach to preventing/reducing graffiti in the City of South Portland.

If you have any questions, or would like to report graffiti, call the South Portland Police department at

Detective David Stailing 207-799-5511 ext. 7454