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All About Crime"




The "All About Crime" sixty foot (and growing) movable mural project involves at-risk youth, repeat juvenile offenders and gang members, as well as people of all ages who have been crime victims. "All About Crime" takes youth in high risk situations and helps them translate perceptions and experiences into written form and visual art in order to challenge them to assume personal responsibility for their actions and attitudes. This project also provides victims of crime with a forum to vent their anger and fears, and enjoy the rewards of learning how to illustrate their feelings and experiences.

According to The Miami Herald journalist John Barry, "this art project depicts the violence to the spirit that crime inflicts, told through the drawings and written narratives of victims and perpetrators - from children to the elderly." Included in this project are School Board member Betsy Kaplan, who re-creates a break-in at her home, and Miami Beach Commissioner, David Pearlson, who describes the pre-dawn theft of his car. It also includes a drawing of a gang killing and a vow of revenge by a 16 year old boy. But few are quite as achingly sorrowful as a seven-year old girl's drawing which asks, "Is it a crime to hit somebody?" She shows herself and her father standing outside an apartment building. People are looking down from the roof. Though she is a little girl, she appears taller than her father. He is reaching up with his hand to strike her in the face. Her reason for making her father smaller than herself? "Because I don't like him."

The diversity of sketches gives the mural a universal perspective — showing pain and cruelty from both the giving and receiving ends, through young eyes and old eyes. One drawing is a virtual "blueprint for shoplifting." It is a series of stick-figures showing three friends taking the Metromover to Dadeland Mall, entering J.C. Penney, stealing clothes, shoes and video games, avoiding security guards, stealing a car in the parking lot, driving it back to the Metromover stop, then riding home on the train. Another is a 90-year old man's depiction of his wife's mugging. A teenager is holding a knife to her throat, stripping off her gold necklace, while bystanders turn their backs.

Workshops have been held at public schools located in high crime neighborhoods, at alternative schools and at community centers. More than 300 participants wrote stories and created artwork describing their experiences with crime and how crime has affected their lives. Discussions took place regarding the reasons for committing crimes, the feelings involved, and the ramifications, to gain better understanding of motives, actions and reactions.

The mural has been exhibited at the Youth Crime Watch National Convention in Miami attended by Attorney General Janet Reno. The project was part of the program at the Conference on Urban/Multicultural Education: Teaching, Learning, and Beyond at Florida International University. The mural's exhibition tour includes the Stephen P. Clark Government Center; The Miami Herald Building; The Miami-Dade Library; The Miami Youth Museum; and Lincoln Road, Miami Beach.

The nationally syndicated television show "HARD COPY" and NBC News featured this project, both hailing it as a "radical crime fighting experiment using art." Stories about the project have appeared on the front page of The Miami Herald and in CD Publications' nationally distributed "Children & Youth Funding Report." "All About Crime" is featured in "ARTWORKS! Collaborations That Change Lives," a publication of the Miami Coalition For A Safe and Drug Free Community.

This project has been replicated by CFCA artists with at-risk youth living in Lima, Ohio through a grant from the Lion and the Lamb Peace Foundation at Bluffton College.

For additional information about this project, please contact us at

© 1996 Dena Stewart

"What is a crime?" we asked groups of youth. They answered in language to shock, some uncouth.

Kids six though teens said they've stolen from vendors. "We've done it all" bragged young repeat offenders.

"Rape, arson, robbery, computer hacking, Kidnapping, trespassing, murder, carjacking."

"Drug dealing, drunk driving, theft and strong arming, using a weapon intent upon harming."

"Why risk the chance for a future in jail?" Why commit crimes?" We wanted detail.

"Pressure from peers." "To belong in the 'hood." "To get back at parents." "We're misunderstood."

"We want all the things advertised on TV but we have no money. These things aren't free."

"Like everyone else we want what we need. We think of the moment, not where it will lead."

Because of these crime waves people are scared. Victims have asked that their stories be shared.

"My hands were bound, my home was robbed, then I was raped" the woman sobbed.

"A knife was held up to my throat. He took the wallet from my coat."

I was knocked down, my purse was grabbed. My car ripped off, my best friend stabbed."

The streets are a gauntlet the innocent run To reach a safe place 'til the crime war is won.

Fear keeps our neighbors imprisoned at home giving the criminals freedom to roam.

What steps can we take to eliminate crime? To reclaim our lives before there's no time?

"Return to your families. Give love and hugs." is like telling an addict to "Say no to drugs."

Rhetoric spoken is not a real answer. The crime problem's spreading faster than cancer.

Families don't have a solid foundation. Schools don't provide the right education.

Youngsters in crisis have nowhere to turn. There are so few role models from whom to learn.

It's now up to us to impress upon youth that their future depends upon morals and truth.

Teach them skills, give them praise. Help guide their way 'til their self-worth is so high that crime doesn't pay.


"I was picked up by the cops for shoplifting. They put me in a little room with my friends. My heart was pounding hard, like a circus of drums - umpapa umpapa umpapa. I was terrified of going to Juvenile jail. When I saw the door open I was sweating like a pig because my parents were coming in. I just wanted to say it is a feeling I would never like to experience again. What I have learned is not to steal."

Chris G., l4


"Me and my three friends took the Metro Mover to Dadeland. Two of us went into a store to look around to see if we can walk out with stuff. One boy opens the door for us to walk out with the clothes, shoes and games we took. Then two of my friends go get a car from the parking lot so we can go home. We drive to the Metro Mover and leave the car there."

Little James, 18


"One nice cold day, a young man decided he had to get paid, so he waited at the bus stop for a tourist to come so he could snatch her purse. And he found a victim. The police saw him and pursued the criminal. The criminal saw the police and ran away. Five houses down, the police caught the criminal and slammed him on the ground, put the cuffs on him and took him to jail."

Demetrice S., l5


"One day I was cleaning up my house and I looked out the window. I saw a crowd of people and I ran out to see what was going on. I happened to have a broom in my hand and when I got outside I saw the bus driver empty the bus and run after a couple of kids. The bus driver had a knife in his hand. The kids jumped the bus driver and the people who were watching called the police. Because I had a broom in my hand the police thought I was one of those who was involved with the bus driver. They arrested me and I spent one day and one night in jail. It happened last January and I'm still going to Court. They are trying me as an adult although I'm only l7. When I was arrested I felt frustrated, angry and upset. I'm a law abiding citizen and I'm accused of something I didn't do. I just happen to live in the wrong neighborhood."

Carla A.., l7

"This guy is broke. His friend is goading him into stealing a lady's purse. She screams. The guy opens the purse and sees there's nothing in it of value. A police car pulls up and arrests him. He smacks the cop, realizes he shouldn't have done that and runs away. He then laments how sorry he feels for that lady, but his main concern is that he hopes he isn't found."

Alex S., l5

"One day I broke this guy's nose and I was sitting in the Court room feeling like "Oh well, I committed a felony", and then the victim walked in with his grandma and she had a look of overwhelming sadness on her face. That scared me and showed me I have done something wrong — I struck FEAR in a grown person's heart and I felt alone in a dark black room not being able to hear everything going on in the light."

Frankie P., l5

"Terry and his homeboy had a conflict with Pat on Monday morning. The next day, on Tuesday, Terry and his homeboy were playing ball across the street from his home and Pat drove up. He saw Terry and decided to shoot him. After he shot him, he jumped back into his car and drove away. The homeboy called the police and ambulance. Terry died. Pat got away."

Alex J., l7

"When I walk down the street or I'm in the supermarket I clutch my purse tightly to my chest. Sometimes I just take my driver's license and whatever money I need and put them in my pocket so that I don't have to carry a purse. I fearfully look in all directions whenever I walk in a parking lot. So many of my friends and acquaintances have been mugged and injured that I fear I have become neurotic. Are the days gone forever when we can freely walk down the street, shop, smile hello to people approaching us? I hope not."

Daryle P., senior citizen