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Afternoon Thinkage: Using Tagging to Gauge Neighbor Safety

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Architect and professor Michael Chung of Lettuce recently articulated a novel (and tongue-in-cheek) theory on gang graffiti and its usefulness as a indicator of neighborhood stability. He's come by this theory the hard way, after living in Silver Lake, Thai Town, and Highland Park. Herewith, his "Tag Theory:"

[LAPD Chief William] Bratton's got his broken windows theory - here's tag theory. When to worry or not worry about gang violence in a given neighborhood.

The fear of gangs is misguided in some regards. The most professional of gangs are not out to destabilize neighborhoods nor do they necessarily want to cause harm to you or your property - they just want to make territory clear and continue operations as smoothly as possible.

Big Fish Uncontested Territory: No imminent threat. When your neighborhood has tags that have gone unchanged in a long time. Particularly stable if tagged by major organizations (18th ST, Avenues, Wah Ching).

Big Fish-Little Fish Contested Territory. Proceed with caution. Tags of major operations crossed out (*not* painted over) by smaller or lesser known gangs. Mid-level threat only because there will likely be some assertive acts by the bigger fish to reclaim territory, but once re-established all is back to order.

Little Fish-Little Fish Contested Territory. Move. Many tags of smaller organizations crossed out with some frequency. Smaller, entrepreneurial enterprises by nature need to be aggressive to establish themselves. You do not want to be in the crossfire.

Big Fish-Big Fish Contested Territory. You're screwed.

Chung may be onto something. All you need to do is head over to Echo Park, where two local gangs, the Crazys and ExP, have been in an "ominous tagging war" in recent months, according to a commenter at the Eastsider LA blog. And there's been two recent and fatal gang-related shootings (longtime ExP member Eric Zamarripa was one of those killed) in the neighborhood. Should Malcolm Gladwell start on his next book "The Tagging Point" now?
· Afternoon Thinkage: Crosswalks in LA—Boon or Threat? [Curbed LA]