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Many cities are trying to erase the writing on the wall

A decade ago, New York City subway cars were the primary target for industrious miscreants who, armed with marker pens and aerosol paint cans, scribbled and sprayed themselves into a major problem. City officials elsewhere in the country smugly assumed that gang graffiti were a blight limited largely to the Big Apple.

No more. The stylized smears born in the South Bronx have spread across the ) country, covering buildings, bridges and highways in every urban center. From Philadelphia to Santa Barbara, Calif., the annual costs of cleaning up after the underground artists are soaring into the billions. The nationwide proliferation...

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