Vandals are generally disaffected youth who have been bypassed by the Scouting movement. It goes without saying that there is no Scout badge for vandalism. Modern vandals generally lack ambition personally and professionally. The original Vandals sacked ancient Rome whereas modern ones feel pretty pleased with themselves if they sack a park bench.
The root cause of vandalism is a desire to change the status quo. Moving a ‘For Sale’ sign from the front of one house to the front of another is the vandal’s way of reordering the universe more to his own liking. The one thing guaranteed to stimulate a vandal is a ‘vandal-proof’ structure. In a similar fashion anti-climb paint brings out everyone’s inner mountaineer.
Acts of vandalism come in two forms; those that need planning permission and those that don’t. Of the two it’s the ones that get permission that do the lasting damage. Wanton vandalism as opposed to planned vandalism tends to concentrate on bus stops and phone booths. This is a subliminal message from vandals to say that they’re going nowhere and that no-one’s listening to them.
Most vandalism is fuelled by alcohol and the sound of breaking glass is really only an extravagant way of saying ‘cheers’. People who create things when they are under the influence are artists whereas people who destroy things when they are under the influence are vandals. Interestingly, society has now reached the point where the products of art and vandalism look remarkably similar.
A clean wall is the traditional canvass for vandals to express themselves. The reason youth hang around on street corners is often because they’re brainstorming what should go on a wall. Once you’ve written ‘Botley Boot Boys Kick to Kill’, you’re going to be judged on it for a very long time to come. The worst kind of civic vandalism is the mural. This always features children, animals and a rainbow and has a depressing effect on the entire neighbourhood.
Graffiti artists like to write their names on walls. This is slightly odd behaviour as it’s the equivalent of leaving your calling card at the scene of a crime. Sometimes whole walls are covered with the most elaborate coloured graffiti and then someone comes and demolishes the wall in a planned redevelopment. This can be terribly upsetting for the people who put so much effort into the graffiti.
Vandalism isn’t restricted to the drunk and disorderly. The polite equivalent of spray painting is annotating library books. ‘Lost Cat’ posters are the projectile vomiting of the law-abiding classes. And if you really want to make a neighbourhood impossible to live in, buy a second home there.