With uneasy agreement between the city of Lewiston and the 12-Hour Club regarding the “legal” graffiti wall now whitewashed, literally, the time has come for a return to more traditional approaches to controlling graffiti vandalism.

Namely, stepped-up enforcement, a strong community-based response to stopping vandalism before it happens, and removing it after it does.

The wall was worth a shot. For about a year, the city, 12-Hour Club and certain graffiti “artists” made a good faith effort to create, sponsor and utilize the privilege of a wall, in lieu of having other surfaces spray-painted in the city.

It was a novel approach to a difficult problem. Unless police flooded the streets each night, shining spotlights into the city’s darkest corners, making a serious dent in the actions of unruly vandals was almost impossible.

Unfortunately, city officials admit, the wall just didn’t work. Illegal graffiti wasn’t stopped, or even slowed, following the wall. And, police say, the wall had an opposite effect – it increased illegal graffiti in its vicinity.

The 12-Hour Club is a prime example. Graffiti crept beyond the legal wall, onto the rear of the club building, and onto neighboring buildings. Those who came to use the wall, abused the wall.

It makes sense it should now be taken away.

Regrettably, this means police must go back to playing cops-and-taggers, which is a frustrating, time-consuming game. But graffiti “artists” who might bemoan this return to reality should blame themselves and their peers.

They had an opportunity, and blew it. What else can be said?

The failure of the wall, as well, should incite property owners and businesses to embark on their own enhanced anti-graffiti programs. The “Broken Window” theory, which states a broken window, if unfixed, leads to more broken windows, is a deplorable truism.

Tagged buildings get tagged again. While it’s unfortunate to be a victim of vandalism, it borders on negligence to be an easy mark for it. Since vandals rejected overtures of amnesty, the community should reject any appearance of tolerance or ignorance of their actions.

Police can do what they can in catching vandals in the act. But a larger effort, in both Lewiston and Auburn, where graffiti is a real problem, to make it uncomfortable for graffiti “artists” and their trade could pay greater dividends.

Combined with increased enforcement, and the stiffer vandalism penalties the city also enacted when it created the legal wall, this community effort could pay the greatest dividends in stopping graffiti and its perpetrators.

Which is, and should be, the goal now. Amnesty ended when the wall was whitewashed.

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