You take the risk to try something for the first time for the thrill of it.
You get away with it, and before you know it becomes a habit.
Of course, I knew it was wrong, but like all things naughty, they can be exciting, so we proceed.
Criminals and artists have many similarities. They thrive in poverty and suffering together. They both attract the fringe, they create secret associations, they can take little resources and make them multiply by applying will.
Growing up as a graffiti artist shoplifting is part of the culture. We call it “Racking”. And racking garners almost as much respect from peers as the acts of art and vandalism do.
Whether it is a mural or a tag the satisfaction of having your name up is rewarding. And with stealing, you begin to have a reputation as well. Now the only people who care about this reputation are those who are participating in the culture. And that is all that matters.
Racking was a huge influence on the graffiti and mural culture in Pueblo. It really was the catalyst which allowed formuch of it to happen.
Stolen paint stole your attention,
A singlular incident: 1990’s
Presh and I hashed out a plan to pull off the biggest rack of our lives. We went into a chain hardware store, with the intention of stealing as much spray paint as possible. By our standards, we were quite successful. We went into the store dressed casual but with nice appearance. Presh somehow knew where to go to get workers vest, so as we entered the store we split ways. Presh went to the place where the vests were and grabbed two, and I went to the place where the giant trash cans were. I grabbed one 50 gallon trash can. Sturdy and with a lid. We met on the way to the spray paint aisle. There we proceeded to put on the vests and working as a team of looking out and loading. We filled the trash can to the brim with spray paint. And as fast as we filled it we covered it and began walking straight for the door. Within seconds the moment of truth came, we began to exit the door. Just as we began to walk through the door a cashier asked us what we were doing. Presh immediately responded, “the manager asked us to take this and clean the parking lot ” or something like that. And off we went towards the car with zero problems in sight. The can was quite heavy, as we wheeled it out there was much strain on the wheels. As I pulled the container off of the curb the wheels both snapped off and we spilled the cans everywhere. We were for sure caught now. We proceeded to, as fast as light, pick up each can and put them back in the container. We both grabbed a side and very quickly carried it to my tiny car. We jammed the container in the back seat along with another friend who was waiting. To our surprise, as we looked, nobody, seemed to have noticed at all what had just happened, and off we went.
We were inspired to this action because the day before we had gotten an entire building to paint and we decided to have the whole town come and paint on it. There must have been twenty writers out there that day. Presh and I were selling the paint to the participants at a discounted rate for sure. This was one of the most significant moments in the birth of graffiti art in Pueblo, at least my involvement in it. Especially for the second generation of graffiti writers which we were a part of.
I tell this story because its a point in my life where I realized many things that have affected me over the years. One thing especially is important was that I learned stealing is a very bad thing. On a spiritual level, the fear of poverty, which is the cause of much theft, is a karmic nightmare. And the things which you refused to pay for in the beginning are demanded to be paid for in the end with interest.
Eventually, enough financial karma had caught up with me.
About a year after the incident I was caught doing graffiti and then I was sentenced the maximum they possibly could have gotten me for. Huge fines, lots of probation, community service, scared straight, and a curfew The culture of graffiti had on one hand given me a purpose and a set of friends, but at this time it had given me a year-long sentence of paying back for much of what I had done.
When I was 20 I was very sick and had not even one dollar, I went to the store and in my pocket went the flu medicine I was needing. It was this act that changed me forever. This was the first time I had ever stolen out of the need of sorts, not just a desire. This act made in my mind see that my justifications for stealing from corporations were also wrong, simply because I knew that I could put my mind power and lack of fear to much better use. It was here and then that I decided that the only justification for stealing was the case of absolute need.
The last thing that I ever stole was a drill bit. I needed just one bit to drill a pilot hole. The store I was at did not have individual bits only full packs which were quite expensive. I had the money, like $50 on me and plenty more but I was hesitant. Then I saw the exact bit I needed in a pack of screws just like I was using. So I decided to open the screws and take the bit only. It was worth probably a dollar. Anyways I walked out not a problem in the world. The next thing I do is go to the grocery stores to spend that $50 on food. As I’m checking out, I set my wallet with the money on the counter, I turn around to grab something out of the cooler and my wallet was gone, just like that.
And that was my lesson of the five finger discount.
Theft is a large problem in Pueblo, so much so that we have closed grocery stores in entire neighborhoods due to it. We have to find ways for people to be able to thrive without resorting to crime. We have to at least find ways to keep one another meeting the basic needs to survive.
Shoplifting like vandalism can also be a petty or a serious crime. The levels of participation vary depending on the perpetrator’s intentions.
Shoplifting is part of graffiti culture but for the most part what is being stolen are art supplies. Theft occurs within is many other cultures on a much more serious level. Burglary, car theft, purse snatching, that’s a whole different level a taking. I think these things are awful.
So the two types of theft are petty and serious. Petty theft, like stealing a pen or food or something of that nature is a lot more understandable than stealing more valuable things in more violent and aggressive ways. All of it is bad though and I don’t condone it.
These are just my personal experiences with the issues and my opinions and advice on the topic. There are lots of clever and unique ways in which crimes can be committed simply by google searching such topics. I share all of this in an effort to inform. My intentions are to help reduce the psychological issues that cause problems in the first place.
It is clear to see how stealing both benefited me and hurt me. Ultimately stealing is not as lucrative or efficient as simply paying the fare. For with lots of imagination and a little work, money can be made and things acquired in much more honest, fair, and easy ways.
I’m not proud of any harm that I have ever caused or bad decisions I made, but I do accept it all as lessons of growing up. We all take risks growing up, its part of it. The question I bring up is how do we prevent future generations from taking the risks that are criminal, or needing to take the risk of being a thief or dishonest?
Often the cause of the problem is simply the risk itself and risk takers will always be there for that. In many cases simply the fact something is illegal is enough to encourage the crime itself. The best we can offer as an alternative for this are other things that offer risks. Extreme sports and mural painting are two things I encourage to give kids an outlet for exploration which involves risks other than crime.
I hope to one day see a city where theft is no longer a problem, rather a hope to see a city so generous and abundant to the point where these issues no longer exist but rather the exact opposite becomes the case.
Down-Lo is a series of designs, blog posts and shirts aimed at raising awareness about topics which are affecting our city in negative ways. Check out the other posts here on my site and get all of the shirts to help support my efforts of making the city of Pueblo the best place that it can be.