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What Is Graffiti?

The Word

Graffiti consists of inscriptions, slogans and drawings scratched, scribbled or painted on a wall or other public or private surface. The word "graffiti" is derived from the Latin word "graphium," which means "to write." The term "graffiti" was originally used by archaeologists to describe drawings and writings found on ancient buildings and monuments in Pompeii, Egypt and in the Roman catacombs.

A Sign of Urban Decay

Today, graffiti is a sign of urban decay. It has become everyone's eyesore. Graffiti generates fear of neighborhood crime and instability. It is costly, destructive, lowers property values and sends a message that people of the community are not concerned about the appearance of their neighborhoods. It is also against the law!

Graffiti is Not Art

Graffiti is not art; it is vandalism. It is prohibited when done without permission of the property owner. Furthermore, San Diego Municipal Code Section 54.0405 (PDF) requires that property owners keep all walls, buildings, fences, signs and other structures and surfaces visible from the public right-of-way free of graffiti.

New City Ordinance

In November 2000, the San Diego City Council amended the City's Graffiti Ordinance to revise the official definition of "graffiti" as follows:

"Graffiti means any unauthorized inscription, word, figure, picture, or design that is sprayed, marked, cut, posted, pasted or otherwise affixed, drawn or painted on any surface of public or private property."