RALEIGH, N.C. — It is estimated youth gangs are active in more than 2,300 cities. With those gangs often comes graffiti. The city of Raleigh wants to stop graffiti before it gets out of control. One idea that is being tossed around is prohibiting stores from selling spray paint to some customers.
Pete Davison tried to clean graffiti off the side of the downtown business he helps run.
"Within a week, the main one was back again and a second one was added to that," he said.
Despite the image it may give customers, Davison does not bother to scrub it off anymore, but the city of Raleigh hopes to wipe away the problem for good. The city's Appearance Commission is working on a graffiti initiative.
One suggestion being researched by police is to ban the sale of spray paint to minors.
"It would be a step in reducing gang activity," said Sgt. Tim Sincock, of the Raleigh Police Department's Threat Assessment Unit. "It would be one of many tools in our toolbox."
Chicago had a ban in effect to stop the increase of graffiti. In the 1990s, all individuals were banned from buying spray paint. It was only available for professional use. After one year, the city said there was just a modest reduction in spray paint graffiti.
Artist Kellie Lewis said to make the ban effective in Raleigh, you would have to research who is doing the painting. If it is minors, Lewis said she would not support prohibiting paint.
"I think it's crazy. It's not going to solve the problem," she said.
Lewis thinks offering an alternative for kids to express themselves is much better than a ban.
"It's like making a parallel between spray paint and cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol. What are they going to ban next?" she said.
The chairman of the Appearance Commission thinks a ban would not be as effective. Some cities, including Phoenix and Denver, have a lock-up spray paint ordinance. The paint is kept in cages and can only be accessed by a salesperson.