If you live in San Jose, or any city for that matter, you’ve inevitably encountered graffiti scrawled on public walls and signs. Once confined to gang activity, tagging has become popular across a broad spectrum despite the city’s efforts to combat the phenomenon. Between 2008 and 2009, there were 101,000 recorded instances of graffiti marring public property in San Jose, and most of it wasn’t of the Banksy variety. By the 2009-2010 fiscal year, that number had jumped to 148,000 instances.

“It’s a never-ending battle,” says Andy Dalton of the city’s anti-graffiti program. “The stuff you did in the morning, you’ll notice it come back and it’s tagged again.” It’s also a costly battle, with the city spending as much as $1.5 million per year to paint over graffiti, particularly graffiti associated with gangs. But gang graffiti only accounts for 15 percent of all the tagging in the city. The rest is done by teens, eager to leave their mark for short-lived fame.

The city does have a graffiti hotline at (408) 277-2758, and it encourages residents to report any instances of tagging that they find in their neighborhoods. The only way to fight the graffiti is to show the budding artists how brief their art for posterity really is.

Graffitti, no longer just gang-related, costing city millions.