Question: Where does Graffiti happen in NLB?
Through hacking North Long Beach, we hope to proliferate 21st-century thinking and tools in Uptown. In this example, we take a closer look at graffiti in the 9th District to show you how to hack a civic problem. Is there a local issue you would like to hack in North Long Beach? Contact us to collaborate.
Mapping Graffiti: Where do We even Start?
Gavin Newsom's book, Citizenville: Connecting People and Government in the Digital Age, lays out a vision for 21st century America where the government empowers citizens to manage and improve the city. Long Beach is an early-adopter of this concept: in 2010, we launched the Go Long Beach App, giving anyone with a smart phone the ability to report graffiti and other city problems anywhere and anytime.
To find out where graffiti happens in our neighborhood, we sent the City of Long Beach a public records request. They promptly sent us a PDF with 7,000 graffiti reports that their Public Works department or graffiti abatement subcontractor had handled over the last 5 years.
Finding the Graffiti Hotspots in North Long Beach
The city's data showed major hotspots along the Artesia Blvd. corridor, the 91 freeway sound walls, and on Cherry Ave and Long Beach Blvd. The sites that are being tagged again and again are typically busy corridors with few eyes on the street. They have large blank walls and/or street furniture (like a bus stop, signs or poles). One of the most surprising spots is an unsuspecting intersection on Cherry that is the most tagged location in NLB according to the records. One report at that address mentions "2WC," a tag that indicates the wall may have been used for two-way communication between taggers.
How to Visualize Graffiti (or anything else) on a Map
We saw immediate trends in the data file provided by the city, but we wanted to turn this information into a compelling map. Using Adobe Acrobat, we saved the City's data into a spreadsheet file which we uploaded to Google Sheets. We installed a free app called Geocode by Awesome Table, and converted around 6,400 of the reported graffiti incidents into geographic data that can be put on a map.
We downloaded a free trial of a business analytics program called Tableau, which gave us a lot of flexibility to explore the data more deeply. With a slider, we could isolate date ranges, hone in on specific types of graffiti and even map the graffiti against census data like neighborhood income levels.
Going Back in Time for more Clues with Google Maps
We utilized Google Maps to "visit" some of the interesting sites the data pointed to. A great new feature in Google Maps is the ability to see what the site looked like in previous years. The site below was photographed by Google in both 2011 and 2015, and at both times, the building looks empty, the walls are tempting to taggers and have clearly been painted over by graffiti abatement many times.
OK, We found the Graffiti. So, what's the Solution?
Through a quick Google search, we learned that in 2014, Long Beach spent around $2.30/citizen per year to clean-up graffiti throughout the City. The Graffiti Removal Program is split between the City of Public Works and a paint subcontractor who perform a combined 60,000+ clean-ups per year for around $1 million. This constant clean-up effort is a major deterrent for future graffiti and is incredibly cost-effective because of its deployment scale. Make sure you do your part by reporting graffiti using the Go Long Beach app and learning about the full Graffiti Removal Program. If you see someone tagging, call 911 and do not approach them.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, local artists and the Arts Council for Long Beach transformed some of North Long Beach's most tagged spots into beautiful art pieces via his Connected Corridor Challenge that funded several new murals in the area.
According to District 9 Staff, one of the mural sites was tagged 100 times in 2015. Nearly one year later, the mural there has only been tagged twice (a 98% reduction). This evidence warrants more murals and environmental design ideas like grow walls, patterned street furniture and active streets.
A recent vandalism behavioral study in Brent, London found that most graffiti there was committed by young men aged 13-17 who were seeking thrilling activities. Even worse, some graffiti is associated with status-seeking behavior, promoting drug sales, marking gang territory. Youth need productive activities to engage in to keep from vandalism, and falling into gangs and drugs.
Earlier this year, the City of Long Beach released the My Brothers Keeper Local Action Plan to frame the challenges and opportunities of ensuring everyone in Long Beach has full access to the American dream. The plan encapsulates many of Long Beach's programs and investments oriented towards motivating youth to matriculate and enter the workforce from Mayor Garcia's Internship Challenge to the College Promise.
North Long Beach Youth Engagement Spaces and Programs
Photos (left to right): Workout equipment at Houghton Park, PADnet production crew, Shared Science at UpLAB
Activation, Safety & Security
Jane Jacobs' idea of "eyes on the street" as the principle deterrent of bad behavior in cities is a guiding rule for ceasing lawless behavior on the streets. While police protection and security from the Uptown Property & Community Association are effective, achieving a dynamic mix of people on the streets for as much of the day as possible is the best way to improve overall neighborhood quality of life.
The new Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, new commercial developments, bike lanes, safety cameras, patio dining and proposed pedestrian sidewalk enhancements are encouraging more adults to appear and hang around on the streets and their prevalence discourages youth from acting unruly.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson continues to lead his team and community partners to write grants and find funds for Uptown placemaking projects like his latest announcement, UpLink, which provides free Wi-fi on Atlantic Avenue between Houghton Park and the library.
Photos (left to right): Installing Wi-Fi along Atlantic Ave., ribbon-cutting of Artesia Blvd. bike lane, new library on Atlantic Ave.
Where do We go from Here?
This project was fun and interesting to work on and helps clarify what we all can do to help North Long Beach tackle graffiti:
Aside from graffiti: