An alarming increase in graffiti vandalism in downtown Los Angeles is causing local government and business leaders more and more trouble. With its three skyscraper towers, the Oceanwide Plaza building was originally thought to be a symbol of urban rejuvenation. However, with over 30 floors covered in vibrant, illegal art, it has become a canvas for taggers. The damage continues despite increased security and a constant police presence, extending from Oceanwide Plaza to neighboring buildings and streets.

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) have surrounded the Oceanwide Plaza location around the clock, every day of the week, in an attempt to ward off vandals. Nevertheless, their attempts have not been successful in deterring dedicated taggers from causing damage to the property. The LAPD Chief, Michel Moore, disclosed that more than 3,000 hours had been devoted to neighborhood patrols in recent weeks, resulting in a substantial cost burden projected to exceed $150,000.

One passionate tagger said “I’m going to get my art up no matter what it is,” illustrating the tenacity of those prepared to circumvent security protocols to make their imprint on the urban landscape.

Vandalism instances involving graffiti persist despite the LAPD’s constant watchfulness. The blatantness of the vandals was demonstrated in a recent incident that was caught on camera by NBCLA. One of the perpetrators admitted to rerouting their efforts to another building after being unable to gain entry to Oceanwide Plaza.

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The impact of this vandalism goes beyond the immediate region of Oceanwide Plaza; business leaders in the downtown area have seen an alarming increase in graffiti. While Nick Griffin, Executive Vice President of the DTLA Alliance, reported a startling 500% rise in vandalism occurrences over the last week alone, Blair Besten, Executive Director of the Historic Core Business Improvement District, reported a tripling of graffiti-related service calls.

The frequency of destruction caused by graffiti has led local officials to demand immediate action. Mayor Karen Bass was pushed to declare a state of emergency by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, President of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, to allow the city to obtain extra state and federal resources to address the issue.

“It’s not only an eyesore. It’s an embarrassment for the city of LA,” Hutchinson emphasized, underscoring the urgency of the situation.

Some taggers are unaffected by the LAPD’s efforts to enforce the ban because they believe there are legal loopholes. Despite the LAPD’s claim that trespassing and vandalism are punishable by arrest, the ongoing nature of the vandalism indicates that more extensive measures are required to deal with the underlying causes of the problem.

When the Chinese developer ran into financial difficulties in 2019, work on the Oceanwide Plaza development came to a halt, leaving the building unfinished and open to vandalism. The property’s incomplete nature has made matters worse by giving taggers lots of opportunities to express themselves at the expense of both public and private property.

As the downtown Los Angeles graffiti pandemic worsens, worries about the city’s image and public safety are growing. Although there is still work to be done, the issue of taggers’ tenacity highlights the necessity of a multimodal strategy that targets the enforcement of current laws as well as the underlying causes that motivate people to commit vandalism. Downtown Los Angeles’s streets cannot be freed from the grasp of graffiti vandalism unless law enforcement, community leaders, and stakeholders work together in unison.