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Graffiti blights Olympic Torch route through Oxford
AS the 2012 Olympic Torch weaves its way through Oxford next month it will travel along a route defaced by graffiti tags and spray paint.
It will start in Blackbird Leys on July 9 and make its way through Cowley and East Oxford before finishing in South Park. The next day it will pass along Iffley Road and Donnington Bridge.
But as it travels along Oxford Road, Cowley, the torch will pass shop shutters daubed in spray paint, before continuing along Cowley Road where clean-up teams are forced to check every day for fresh vandalism.
It will finish its journey in South Park where a graffiti plastered public toilet block blights the view.
Each year Oxford City Council spends £100,000 removing graffiti.
John Tanner, city executive board member for a Cleaner, Greener Oxford, said: “We need to have another anti-graffiti campaign.
“It is not acceptable to deface one of the most beautiful cities in the world, especially in an Olympic year.
“What annoys me is that the general public have to pay for the graffiti of the few.”
Andrew Wright, a city council street scene supervisor, said his team had reports of 100 pieces of graffiti in 55 different locations last month.
But he said when he added in smaller amounts of graffiti tackled on an ad-hoc basis the number probably doubled.
He said: “It is a perennial problem – we will never stop it entirely. Where there are certain hotspots where we know it is going to crop up we’ve given crews instructions to do daily checks.
“We check Cowley Road on a daily basis, there are certain areas around Rose Hill we check on a daily basis too. We keep records of the graffiti we removed and we do have a graffiti database.”
The council does not charge businesses for the removal of graffiti and when racist or offensive slogans are sprayed it pledges to remove the vandalism within 24 hours.
Thames Valley Police acting superintendent Chris Sharp, Oxford area commander, said: “Graffiti does come in trends when offenders feel they are getting an audience. We always look to prosecute.”
No figures are available for successful prosecutions as graffiti is formally classified as criminal damage.
But convictions are difficult to achieve as the recent case of SOAK graffiti tagger Charlie Silver in Oxford showed.
The 20-year-old was fined £100 in February after he admitted to one of four crimes he was charged with.
The remaining three counts were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
John Chappell, acting district crown prosecutor, said: “What we have to prove is that no one else was using the same tag.”
Peter Thompson, of Oxford Civic Society, said: “The sort of graffiti we see does damage the image of the city and that’s one of the reasons it’s very unfortunate. I would give some credit to the city council in cleaning it up, because in my experience they have done a very good job.”