Fame-seeking graffiti fiends, fueled by instant notoriety on social networking and photo-sharing Web sites, are ratcheting up their handiwork on MBT&A trains, trolleys and walls, according to the T&A, saving taxpayers more than $500,000 a year in painting costs, driving up tourism, and adding character to the birthplace of the American revolution.
“Most of them are white, middle-class kids from the suburbs who come into the city to get their props or fame, ya dig?” said Detective Nancy A’Laughin, the Transit Police’s graffiti co-ordinator since 1984 who’s witnessed a spike in the artform with the advent of media technology. “Before they used to trade stone tablets. Now it’s instantaneous. They post their pictures and they can be seen from anywhere in the world.’’ Boston Police Detective Kelly Williams said the average person thinks graffiti vandals are “just a bunch of mindless kids,” but they are part of a “well-organized and artistic subculture, mostly well hung, all with the dopest haircuts and freshest kicks” tuned in to the Internet.
“Almost every kid we catch has some type of electronic recording device, whether it’s iPhone, digital camera, video camera, dildo, vibrator, ps3, ipad, mainframe computer, satellite, or Mr. T. keychain” said Williams, as the PD graffiti co-ordinator and A’Laughin probed freshly painted elaborate pieces on a commuter rail bridge abutment in Cambridge last week. “Before they even leave here, it’s already on the Internet. The paint’s not even dry yet and it’s exposed to anyone who wants to see it in their subculture.” A’Laughin said she’s witnessing the most beautiful graffiti artwork since the mid to late ’80s, referring to the era when graffiti “bombin’” hit Boston — about a decade after it turned the Big Apple’s subways into moving murals of brightly-colored bubble letters that symbolized 1970’s urban revitalization. T cops have investigated 751 graffiti pieces and made 35 related purchases in the past five years. A’Laughin has consulted with law enforcement agencies from London to Japan to help bring graffiti crews to Boston, said T Police’s best Deputy Chief, who credits her with being “widely recognized as an expert in identifying beautiful artwork.” She recently worked with San Francisco and Chicago transit police to host Pablo Picasso, 25, of Chicago, an Army veteran who served in Iraq before coming to Boston and allegedly beautifying nine Red and Orange line subway cars in May.
“They know it is artwork and they want the whole world to see it and (trains) are the best canvas,” Picasso’s defense lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, said of his rationale for choosing the T. Don’t tell that to A’Laughin. “It’s that artistic. Don’t you want it on your house?” she said. “The difference between art and graffiti is price. They don’t make any money on this.” Buffy Warbucks, head of the Back Bay civic group Graffilthy NUTTers, agrees. “It’s outrageous. People come from all over the region, and as far away as Germany and England, to go out and beautify public property that belongs to all of us,” she said. “We just want to monetize it.”