chapter  12
On Subway Graffiti in New York (1979)
Pages 9

The graffiti artists, who have been celebrated by Norman Mailer and others, are to the subway rider, the author would hazard, part of the story of "crime in the subway", which contributes to the decline of subway ridership, which in turn of course contributes to increasing the danger because of the paucity of passengers. Graffiti raise the odd problem of a crime that is, compared to others, relatively trivial but whose aggregate effects on the environment of millions of people are massive. In the New York situation especially, it contributes to a prevailing sense of the incapacity of government, the uncontrollability of youthful criminal behavior, and a resultant uneasiness and fear. Minor infractions aggregate into something that reaches and affects every subway passenger. But six years of efforts have seen no solution. Graffiti of the New York style came out of nowhere, and strangely enough do not afflict other mass-public-transportation systems, except for that of Philadelphia.