Why this story matters:
In February, the Lithuanian police announced the arrest of a group that sprayed many public and private buildings with their signature -- Solomon. Seven were detained.
The damage attributed to graffiti carries a prison sentence up to five years in Lithuania, which already has the largest prison population per capita in the EU. Attitudes towards graffiti are generally negative, and in the past, many famous Lithuanians joined a Facebook initiative offering financial rewards to anyone who helped catch the "Solomon" taggers.
On the other hand, as tourism season starts, travellers from all over the world can be seen taking selfies next to cheeky scribbles and comic characters on fences and buildings. For example, a graffiti featuring Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, commissioned by a local eatery, became a viral tourism hit.
Since some of the illegal paintings are becoming Instagram hits, a discussion on the proportionality of penal measures in such cases would be in order.
Details from the story:
- After Solomon were arrested, a journalist of Delfi, the largest Lithuanian news website, clearly enjoyed expressing his disdain for street "taggers" in various subtle forms, without overstepping the boundaries set by factual reporting standards. He described them as "self-proclaimed artists," "tarnishers," and "daubers who have defiled, smeared, and ruined buildings in Vilnius."
- Three streets worth of graffiti have been cleared this year.
- There is a public tender underway to contract cleaning them from surfaces that cannot be painted over.
- The municipality's staff use a mobile app, called Graffiti Collector, to identify and analyze the locations of graffiti and transfer this information to the police.
- An interactive map allows users to locate graffiti are and be notified when they are removed.
- There are five locations in Vilnius where everyone is allowed to spray-paint.