Parents of Prescott Valley teens have to stay plugged into their kids’ lives to ensure that they don’t stray from the straight and narrow path into dangerous territory. But often parents are unaware of their offspring’s illegal activities until they kids get arrested.

A typical crime that might wind up with your child’s arrest is graffiti, or tagging. But parents (and many law enforcement agencies) make few distinctions between the two activities. Read on to learn the differences.

What is graffiti?

In the simplest sense, graffiti is any writing, drawing or painting done on the surface of a wall or other structure in a public place. As such, it’s considered to be an illegal activity even though some graffiti is incredibly detailed and has artistic value.

Graffiti can also be a kind of socio-political commentary. The more elaborate the graffiti, the more highly skilled the graffiti artist likely is. In fact, the work of one graffiti artist in the UK — Banksy — has made him an international icon.

What is tagging?

Tagging is one of the simplest forms of graffiti and requires no artistic ability or special skills to do. In most cases of tagging, the tagger scrawls a barely legible signature, or “tag” on the side of a building, bridge, wall or other public space.

The problem with tagging is that it is closely related to gang activities in the area. Gangbangers typically tag locations where they ply their trade, i.e., sell drugs or weapons. Areas tagged by gangs serve as warnings to rival gang members that the area is under the control of the tagging gang and that all competition will be violently evicted from the area.

What to do if your child is arrested

While the police may make few distinctions when charging your teenager, both tagging and graffiti are forms of vandalism. Juveniles convicted of charges can wind up incarcerated or on house arrest depending upon many other factors.

If your child is facing these charges, it’s important to ensure that he or she is competently represented and that any allegations of gang-related activity are refuted, as this can draw even more unwelcome legal complications.