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The ugly truth about graffiti artists' work
Buy this photo » Street Scene supervisor Dan Warne in Manzil Way, off Cowley Road, Oxford. Picture: OX62614 Steve Wheeler
VANDALS “disfiguring” the city are costing taxpayers more than £100,000 every year.
Oxford City Council has spent more than £300,000 cleaning up after graffiti vandals in the last three years.
But the cost to residents and businesses is likely to be much higher as the authority cannot clean off spray paint from private property.
Workers from the council’s Streetscene cleaning service aim to remove offensive graffiti within 24 hours of a report and other graffiti within seven days. They also offer a removal service to private owners for a fee.
Daniel Warne, a Streetscene team supervisor, told the Oxford Mail a specialist team of two officers visited vandalism hotspots daily.
He said: “Removing it is part of our daily routine.
“It is always going to be a problem. You cannot stop people doing it as a council.
“It definitely does put a downer on the city. It does take away the beauty of Oxford city itself. However as a council we do have a rapid response to remove it.”
Mr Warne also said the council worked with the police but it was hard to find those responsible.
He said: “Just like any criminal they are very hard to catch. We cannot sit there looking at the building for 24 hours a day.”
But he said he did not think graffiti was a big problem in Oxford, adding: “As a council I believe we have it under control and we do a good job of removing it.”
He said: “It is quite satisfying to see something plastered over the building and then it’s completely gone.”
Council figures show there were 825 reports of graffiti in Oxford in 2010/11 and 390 in 2012/13.
The cost of cleaning it up went up from £96,000 in 2010/2011 to £107,000 in 2012/13.
Among the places hit recently is an underpass by Horspath Road in Cowley, vandalised last weekend.
Bob Timbs, secretary and treasurer of the Horspath Road Estate Residents’ and Tenants’ Association, said: “It just makes the area look tatty. It runs the area down and we don’t want it.
“We like to keep our area tidy we don’t want this in our area.”
He added: “If they think they are artists they should draw something decent and do it on their own bedroom walls.”
Vandals this month attacked a £380,000 skatepark which was opened after more than a decade of volunteer campaigning.
Meadow Lane Skate Park in Iffley was covered in phallic symbols in the spray-paint attack on the night of October 3.
The facility opened in May after 12 years of campaigning by the Oxford Wheels Project (OWP).
The most recent high profile prosecution, in February last year, was of Charlie Silver, 20, fined £100 after for daubing “Soak” and “BWS” across shop shutters in East Oxford.
The “Soak” tag caused more than £20,000 damage across the city. Silver, of Upper Fisher Row in the city centre, admitted spraying the shutters of the convenience store in Cowley Road in July 2010 and he was fined and told to pay a £15 victims’ surcharge and £85 costs.
Three more serious criminal charges were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said cleaning costs had gone up because of the rising cost of fuel and cleaning materials.
She added: “We do not believe the graffiti situation in our city has got worse of late. However there are often sporadic increases in the amounts of graffiti incidents over the course of a year.
“We have invested in a dedicated team and state of the art specialised graffiti removal vehicle to improve the service we offer.”
- Residents can report graffiti by calling 01865 249811 or going online at oxford.gov.uk/graffiti
'MAKE THEM CLEAR UP THEIR OWN MESS'.
SUSANNA Pressel, Labour city councillor for Jericho and Osney, says convicted graffiti vandals should be made to clean up the damage they cause.
She said graffiti had “degraded and disfigured” her ward, especially the walls by Oxford Canal.
She added: “They make it look very degraded and as if nobody cares about it. It think it looks awful if a beautiful rural scene is disfigured by graffiti.
“It is the tags we are talking about which are just marking territory like an animal marks territory by urinating.
“It is very annoying and silly and looks ugly.”
The councillor said where possible plants should be grown to cover blank walls to stop vandals targeting them.
She said: “Defensive planting is a very good idea in some places. But of course it takes a long time to grow. But I still think it should be put in as soon as we see there is a problem.”
And she said some gardeners cut back ivy which left room for vandals, adding: “It is a great pity.”
The councillor also said there were problems created by not knowing who actually owned the vandalised property and therefore who should clean it up.
She said: “Sometimes it is not clear who is responsible for it and trying to find out who is responsible and to get them to deal with it can take months.
“It is not right for public money to be spent on a private wall.
“We need to make sure everybody who owns property in the city comes together to help clean up after these vandals.”
She also called for police to take records of each “tag” so when a suspect is caught they can be prosecuted for all the damage they have caused.
She said: “We hope that in time they will catch the people responsible and look at all the examples of the graffiti that person has done.
“Wherever possible the perpetrators should be forced to clean off the mess they have made. That should be a good part of their punishment.”
'YOU COULD GO TO JAIL' POLICE WARN.
POLICE have warned graffiti vandals they could face a big fine or even a prison sentence.
Officers can hand out £90 fines to vandals. If charges are pressed and the damages are worth less than £5,000 the maximum penalty available to judges is three-months in jail or a fine of up to £2,500.
If the criminal damage is worth more than £5,000 the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.
East Oxford neighbourhood inspector Graham Hadley, right, said: “Graffiti is destructive and offensive to local communities, who do not want to see their buildings vandalised in this way.
“Anyone caught by police defacing local property will be handed an on-the-spot fine, caution or could face a court case.”
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