19 November 2018

Council plans to 'reclaim our streets' from graffiti taggers

A major crackdown on graffiti and tagging could soon by launched by the city council.

Town hall bosses are determined to halt the rising tide of graffiti that makes parts of the city ugly eyesores, while ‘reclaiming our streets and neighbourhoods from the vandals’.

Detailed plans have been drawn up which bring together the council, police, businesses, community groups, residents and even the taggers themselves to rid the city of the unsightly scrawls.

The plans include setting up an online database where anyone can report graffiti with times, dates and locations.

As most taggers are repeat offenders, the database will enable the council and police to show a history of criminal behaviour and help prosecute graffiti vandals more successfully – with a maximum 10 year jail sentence.

Graffiti and tagging, usually a spray painted name or logo, has risen so dramatically in the last year that figures show almost 10 per cent, or one in every 10 streets in the city, have high levels of graffiti on them. Last year the figure was just three per cent.

Cllr Gill Mitchell, chair of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “Graffiti tagging is a terrible and escalating blight on our beautiful city.

“Not only does this type of vandalism create ugly eyesores in our streets and neighbourhoods, it costs the council, and therefore our taxpayers, thousands of pounds every year to clear.”

At present the council spends £75,000 a year removing graffiti, but is only responsible for clearing its own buildings and property, and not private property, unless the graffiti is obscene or offensive.

Cllr Mitchell added: “This strategy addresses the concerns of our residents, businesses and tourist by setting out a clear and achievable plan for how the city council and its partners will tackle the graffiti scourge, halting this tide while reclaiming our streets and neighbourhoods from the vandals.”

The strategy focuses on four key areas: prevention, enforcement, removal, and monitoring and reviewing. In addition to the online database, the strategy sets out how the council will:

  • work with universities, schools and youth clubs to develop and deliver information on the impact of graffiti
  • work with youth services, local artists and residents to create opportunities for young people to become involved in urban art projects that will enhance the environment
  • share intelligence with the police, community groups and other council services to track down and prosecute offenders
  • work with the police, probation and youth offending service (YOS) to use restorative practices to remove graffiti, ie those responsible being made to clear their scrawls
  • develop an online resource, providing information for residents, businesses and private property owners on how they can help the council tackle graffiti
  • set up greater surveillance at known hot spots
  • remind and educate shop owners on the law relating to the sale of aerosol paints to those under 16.

The report, which goes to the environment, transport and sustainability committee next Tuesday (27 Nov), also recommends starting talks with businesses, private property owners and utilities providers like gas, electricity and Royal Mail on the best way to quickly remove graffiti on their buildings, junction boxes, post boxes and other property.

This could include a new enforcement process requiring property owners to remove graffiti within an agreed timeframe, and the setting up of a council-run graffiti removal service to help owners of private and commercial buildings and property.

Both of these options would only happen after consultation and feasibility studies are carried out and would need further approval from a council committee.

Historically the council has not used legal powers to enforce removal of graffiti by the owners of privately owned or commercial owned property. But with the vast majority of graffiti being on private buildings, the council is having to review this process.

The strategy also makes clear the council is not targeting proper art that is commissioned or given permission by the property’s owners.

More information

The police and the council do attempt to identify and prosecute graffiti vandals, however this can be very difficult as most offenders work at night and away, or hidden from, from CCTV cameras.

The police have powers to prosecute for graffiti. The local authority may also prosecute. Graffiti is criminal damage under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. If the value of criminal damage exceeds £5,000, the maximum penalty for those aged 18 or over is 10 years imprisonment.

For those aged 12-17, the maximum custodial penalty is a detention and training order of up to 24 months.

Where the damage is less than £5,000, the maximum sentence is three months imprisonment or a fine of £2,500 for adult offenders.