Do legal graffiti walls decrease illegal graffiti?
A new study from the organization A Safer Sweden claims some Swedish communities that have set up legal graffiti walls have seen an increase in illegal graffiti.
The city of Stockholm introduced a zero-tolerance policy against graffiti in 2007,a move that was harshly criticized. Many called it an attack on an art form and freedom of expression.
After last September's election, a change of power in Stockholm found the red-green coalition together with the Feminist Initiative party wresting control away from the conservative alliance parties.
The new government said that they would remove the zero-tolerance policy against graffiti in the city.
Social Democrat Roger Mogert is in the new Stockholm city council. He has said that removing the policy will lead to "a more tolerant, more open city where it is once again allowed to discuss and work with this form of expression".
Mogert continued: "There has been quite an anti-intellectual attitude from the city of Stockholm during the conservative government's reign, where they have used the zero-tolerance policy to shut down art exhibits and prohibit advertising seminars. It has really suppressed freedom of speech."
In A Safer Sweden's report, 31 municipalities reported having legal graffiti walls and of those under a quarter reported increased illegal graffiti, while around 42 percent reported no increase. The report did not have statistics for decreased illegal graffiti but did have quotes from representatives of different municipalities, with one saying that the walls have helped and another saying that they have hurt the fight against illegal graffiti.
Speaking to Swedish Radio in Halland, A Safer Sweden board member Magnus Lindgren advised other municipalities against creating legal graffiti walls: "If you do it, you should set aside a large sum for graffiti removal costs... The introduction of legal graffiti walls in no way reduced damage from illegal graffiti."
Lindgren claims that damages increase in connection to legal graffiti walls, but Halmstad city art chief Karolina Peterson told Swedish Radio that there is very little research surrounding this question and that she is sceptical of the new report.
"The question about legal graffiti walls reducing illegal graffiti is one where there are very powerful groups in society, almost like lobby organisations, where a lot is based on opinions," Peterson said, adding that she thinks it is interesting that one publishes a report with "cherry-picked statistics".
Halmstad is one of the cities considering installing a legal graffiti wall and Peterson is holding firm to the cultural administration's plans.
"Yes," she says, "I think it is obvious we should have legal graffiti walls. Because it is an important artistic expression that we need to find an infrastructure for!"