The popular use of aerosol paint (among other tools of vandalism) as a means of defacing public property and leaving a vandal's "signature" is viewed by many as disrespectful, damaging to the public psyche, unsightly and worthy of criminal charges. Cleaning graffiti covered surfaces in public places gives the public a feeling of security and that the authorities are in control. Erasing aerosol paint, however, is costly and robs the public of funds needed in other areas of civic life. Some have proposed the allotment of particular surfaces, in train stations for instance, for the availability of graffiti artists and their work. Graffiti artists, though, often suggest half the enjoyment of creating graffiti is its clandestine nature.
The vandalism of numerous art reproductions in the Paris metro system one night in 1991 caused 500,000 francs ($80,000) worth of damage. According to a 1994 report, the RATP transportation authority spends approximately 140 million French francs ($24 million) per year in vain attempt to keep stations and trains free of graffiti. A 1991 report shows 85% of passengers eager to see graffiti "artists" charged criminal fines. The 1994 penalty for graffiti vandalism in France rose to a maximum of 500,000 francs and five years in prison from the 1993 fine of 30,000 francs and 2 years in prison.
Graffiti is an act of angry vandalism. No one has the right to deface property not fully his own, just as no one has the right to confiscate a spray-can that has not been used for defacement. Graffiti is acceptable only if it is practised on an agreed canvas, in which case it would then be renamed graffiti art.
The Museum of Historical Monuments in Paris, along with international ethnologists, sociologists and art historians, paid tribute to a major exhibition of graffiti art in 1991. Events such as this have been repeated in many parts of the world, which indicate the power and importance of graffiti art in contemporary society. At the very heart of artistic creation is the artist's willingness to surpass the bonds of tradition.