Destructive actions against urban public property by minors is the most prevalent form of vandalism. Vandals can be senselessly destructive – breaking glass windows, tearing up paving stones, destroying parks, etc; their violence can be a by-product of street gang conflicts; or they can be reprisals against school and other public authorities. Modern vandalism in a number of cities has been abetted by the invention of the spray paint can and the resulting graffiti; covering over sprayed paint or removing it entails very high expenditure.
British Telecom loses £18 million a year in damaged public telephone equipment. All together vandalism cost the UK more than £1.8 billion a year in the end of 1980s.
Vandalism is not only associated with urban poverty but often with urban density. Poorly designed public housing is believed, by some, to cause or aggravate this kind of socially deviant behaviour. Others blame images and role models projected by entertainment media. The abundance of theories as to the causes of vandalism, none of them conclusive, is either an indication that there is no one immediate, specific cause, or that the cause escapes detection because it is so diffused, such as social malaise, or the disintegration of a society or a culture and consequent moral bankruptcy.