In this line of argument, ‘disorder’ would trigger fear (Ross and Jang ).
Our study engages with and critiques this line of argument in two ways.
First, we observe that there has been much less attention for diverging (and conflicting) interpretations among the public.
Many studies point at the mismatch of interpretations of graffiti as either art or crime between writers on the one hand and authorities, (supposedly) reflecting the concerns of the public, on the other hand (Whitford ).
Unwanted graffiti is in this way prevented and graffiti writers are offered alternatives.
A bifurcated approach like this builds upon the idea that not all graffiti is received in the same way.Indeed, studies prove that ‘graffiti has been called everything from urban blight to artistic expression’ (Gomez ) calls graffiti ‘art crimes’ because it is criminal and artistic at the same time, which makes it also difficult to distinguish ‘artists’ from ‘criminals’.Even graffiti writers recognize that graffiti, while for them in the first place art, in some contexts is damaging or inappropriate (Rowe and Hutton ).According to Brighenti, graffiti is an ‘interstitial practice’: a practice about which different actors hold different conceptions, depending on how it is related to other practices such as ‘art and design (as aesthetic work), criminal law (as vandalism crime), politics (as a message of resistance and liberation), and market (as merchandisable product)’ (: 253) argues, we should not condemn, nor celebrate graffiti, without considering ‘the ambiguities inherent in its various manifestations’.Graffiti comes in many forms, varying from tag graffiti to artistic pieces and stencil art, and from illegal sprayings on public or private property to murals on legally designated walls.In London, authorities first painted over graffiti that mocked the Olympic Games and corporate sponsors, but recently commissioned graffiti as part of the Canals Project for East London’s waterways (Wainwright ).Such developments do not necessarily demonstrate a greater leniency towards graffiti.Particularly the ‘creative city’ discourse offers opportunities to rethink the value of the creative practices of graffiti writers (Mc Auliffe ) ‘recipe’ for successful cities (the 3 T’s in short: Technology, Tolerance and Talent — the latter T is measured by the share of people working in the creative sector), urban governments have promoted creativity in all forms and places to make their cities attractive.Indeed, in some places, graffiti in the form of murals is desired by policy makers to beautify locations and attract tourists (e.g. However, city marketing may also result in a ‘get tough on graffiti approach’, as was the case in Melbourne in response to the run-up to the Commonwealth Games to be hosted in Melbourne in March 2006 (Young ).Using quantitative data, we investigate whether these ideas hold among a larger population (i.e. Studying responses to graffiti has broader relevance for research and policies on disorder, as graffiti is part of a larger ‘grey area’ of deviant behaviour that is not obviously criminal or harmful but nonetheless often labelled as ‘disorder’ (e.g. For example, following Jane Jacobs’ () argument about the role of ‘eyes on the street’ in multifunctional neighbourhoods, people’s presence in the streets could contribute to safe street life and attract more people, but currently there is a tendency to see people hanging around in urban spaces as ‘social disorder’ (e.g. Particularly in the context of zero tolerance policies towards disorder, anti-social behaviour and incivilities, it is important to understand why and when behaviour is something that needs to be prevented, removed or punished.Critics of zero tolerance policies warn that in public space only certain behaviours from certain people are tolerated, while everything that deviates from the ‘mainstream’ is removed or excluded (e.g. Diverging perspectives on disorder, graffiti included, lead to confusion about appropriate policy responses: if offensiveness is subjective, how can authorities discern what is acceptable and what is not?