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The frightening impact of graffiti on our local communities

More than just an unsightly nuisance, graffiti is commonly seen as a form of vandalism that devalues property and consumes valuable police time and other public resources. More often than not, graffiti tarnishes our local neighbourhoods, damages key infrastructure, and causes severe financial losses to both individuals and businesses within our communities. But some argue that graffiti is in fact a form of creative expressionism. Let’s dive deeper!

Tagging vs. Graffiti Artwork

Modern graffiti finds its roots in places where there is a strong need for social change or where street art acted as a major propellant of expression and dialog between groups of people. With its origins stretching as far back as the 1960s, graffiti as we know it today was born in New York and Philadelphia where young people would spray images on buildings and the side of subway trains.

By the 1980s, graffiti had morphed from its origins as expressive artwork to a method of marking territory, often used by gangs to denote that an area belonged to them. This became known as tagging.

The outcome was two distinct groups of graffiti ‘artists’ – those who believed that what they were creating was artistic, and those who used graffiti as a tool for organised crime.

According to a report by Keep Britain Tidy, graffiti is regarded by the general public as either legitimate and permissible or illegal depending on the type of graffiti, location and context. In the simplest terms, most people believe that graffiti is acceptable if it is of a high quality and contains community-based artwork. Tagging is perceived as the least acceptable type of graffiti, in part because it is overtly common and meaningless to the average passer-by.

The Keep Britain Tidy report also found that people often confuse tagging with graffiti art because they are both forms of street art that are often difficult to tell apart. But there are some key differences between the two.

Simply put, graffiti artwork usually has meaning or purpose. It isn’t as much a form of vandalism as it is about conveying an important social message which may speak for – or represent the views of – the wider community. Examples include memorial displays and youth art projects sited in parks and at youth centres.

Tagging, on the other hand, often comes in the form of scribbling, scratching or etching created in a deliberate attempt to vandalise public or private property without permission.

The cost of graffiti on the taxpayers’ pockets

Graffiti has historically been seen as an ugly problem, although local authorities have always struggled to convince members of the public to report it. This is despite the obvious negative impact on local communities and public spaces – bus shelters, train stations and parks for example.

According to Keep Britain Tidy’s report, “People are deterred from reporting graffiti because they don’t know who to call. Or they believe that if they call the council they will be on the phone for a long time, giving details, or will be passed around from department to department.”

This attitude is one of the major hurdles facing the local governments at present and is the main reason why local authorities have a tough time controlling the spread of graffiti in some areas, and certainly a key reason why the police struggle to convict people for illegal graffiti.

In the UK, punishments for defacing public or private property with graffiti range from a fixed penalty notice of £150 to ten years in prison. But according to the London Assembly, the number of people arrested for graffiti each year is in the hundreds, and the number of successful criminal convictions even fewer.

Data from DEFRA shows that as few as 108 fixed penalty notices were handed out to graffiti offenders over a three-year period, with only seven of these going to court, highlighting just how challenging it is for police to tackle the problem head on.

The London Assembly report also reveals that Londoners pay out more than £100 million for graffiti-related issues every year, out of which £23 million is spent by boroughs and transport companies. It is estimated that graffiti costs the UK as a whole more than £1 billion per year to clean up. So, in terms of finances, graffiti contributes to some major monetary losses indeed.

How graffiti impacts our communities

Promote turf wars

Graffiti is a form of vandalism that damages property, causes public safety issues and can result in liability. It negatively impacts local neighbourhoods by making public spaces appear unsafe.

More often than not, graffiti is also used as a means to mark territories. Research shows that if a lot of the graffiti in an area is gang-related or offensive, then that area is more likely to obtain a larger gang presence, which would result in more crime and turf wars.

Damage local businesses

Graffiti isn’t just a nuisance for communities; it is also a major headache for businesses. It may appear threatening and make customers unhappy when they see something inappropriate written on an advertisement or sign.

Customers may not want to visit a business because they see something offensive written on its walls or windows; therefore, it can negatively impact businesses financially by reducing sales or causing customers to boycott shops that have offensive graffiti displayed outside or near their stores.

Devalue property

“Vandalism that is perceived negatively can reduce the value of properties,” says ArtRadar Journal. Graffiti isn’t pretty to look at. The unevenness of design that graffiti creates can neither be easily fixed nor is it often covered by insurance.

Graffiti can also create an environment where residents feel unsafe, which may lead them to move away from their community. All of this can contribute to the devaluation of properties in communities where graffiti is a problem.

Graffiti removal services

Removing graffiti from your commercial property is crucial in maintaining its visual appeal and can even impact your property’s value, as well as the properties around you.

For over thirty years, See Brilliance has been committed to helping commercial building owners and occupiers keep their buildings looking fantastic.

Our graffiti removal methods are safe and reliable and are used by the Royal Institute of British Architects and Historic England.

To find out more about our graffiti removal methods, including DOFF Steam Cleaning and restorative cleaning, get in touch with our cleaning and restoration specialists today.

Over thirty years of experience

See Brilliance has more than three decades of experience helping commercial building owners and occupiers restore and maintain all types of building facades and cladding so they can retain their pristine exterior for years to come.

Get in touch with our building restoration specialists to discuss your project.

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