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Sudden rise in Seattle graffiti: is the economy to blame?

Over the last few months there's been a notable rise in the amount of graffiti in Seattle. It's a shame for a city that was once almost entirely free of the affliction but I've not lost hope. For a while, it seemed like it could be just a neighborhood-specific thing; perhaps some kids getting to the right age to be making trouble. But looking around it seems as though it's a city-wide problem (supported by the city's cleanup numbers, up 44% year on year). That brings the local-effect conclusion into question.

To their credit, the city has done an impressive job of cleaning up within a few days. The behavior continues but it's far better than letting it run unchecked.

Reluctantly jumping onto the bearish bandwagon, I do wonder how much of this can be attributed to a flagging economy. A can of spray paint costs less than a movie ticket, a couple of lattes or an album on iTunes and I wonder whether it's a cheaper form of entertainment, thrill included. On the upside, if this is the case, it likely ends at some point - either with the city cleanup fund outlasting the taggers assets, or with an economic recovery to more comfortable times.

Perhaps the most unexpected tags I've seen are the 'Obama 08' messages on mailboxes and underpasses. All I can say is those responsible had better be voting in November.