MORE than 1,000 cases of graffiti scrawled on private property are blighting Oxford because firms are not paying to have them removed, the city council’s graffiti team has warned.

The Streetscene team has more than 1,000 cases logged on its database that its workers simply are not allowed to deal with.

The vandalism has all been reported in less than a year after the council decided to start cataloguing them.

The council’s Streetscene supervisor Osman Yildirim said: “All we can do is inspect the graffiti and then send the owners a quote.

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“But 99 per cent of them don’t pay because of the cost and they think they shouldn’t have to.

“There are more than 1,000 jobs on my database we can’t touch –and we have the equipment and the training to deal with them.”

The council charges £27 an hour on top of £15 per square metre for the removal of graffiti from privately-owned property.

Mr Yildirim has worked for the Streetscene team for four years and said BT, Network Rail and Virgin Media had all failed to respond to the council’s efforts.

He said: “I see at least 10 to 15 new graffiti every day when I inspect the city, on traffic lights, utility boxes, bridges and even pedestrian crossings.

“It’s getting worse because we can’t touch private property and the problem is rising.

“It’s not a good reputation for when tourists come to what is known as a beautiful city.”

Four months ago Walton Street post office underwent repairs to the building and a repainting job costing thousands of pounds.
Two weeks later the building was attacked by graffiti artists.
Shop owner Shahzada Ahmed said: “I can’t understand why I should have to pay for it, it’s criminal damage.
“The council have said I have to pay for it but I’ve already spent lots of money on it and I pay my council tax.
“If I have it done someone else will just come along and do it again, I’m leaving it as it is.”
Mr Ahmed said his shop had hit with graffiti several times in the 11 years he has been in Oxford.

Experience Oxfordshire chief executive Giles Ingram said: “It sends out a message that a place is unkempt, untidy, uncared-for and possibly even unsafe.

“It is detrimental to someone’s enjoyment while they are here, particularly when visiting an historic city like Oxford.”

Mr Ingram added that in a recent meeting with businesses about what they want to see improved in the city, graffiti wasn’t brought up.

The city council plans to spend £33,000 a year for the next four years to tackle the problem.

The first year’s cash injection could see someone employed to put pressure on companies like BT and Network Rail to clean up their property. An additional £15,000 per year will go towards improving litter-picking and park maintenance.

City councillor for Jericho and Osney Susanna Pressel said: “I think that owners should be expected to look after their property and keep it clean.”

She added: “This time the money will pay for a new post – someone who will work hard to contact private owners and organisations such as BT and Network Rail, to put strong pressure on them to clean up their property.”

Graffiti tags which have plagued Oxford in recent years include “soak” and “BWS” in East Oxford.

In 2012, tagger Charlie Silver, then 21 and of no fixed address, had to pay £200 after admitting one of four ‘Soak’ crimes he was charged with.

The remaining three counts were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Silver was due to face trial at Oxford Magistrates’ Court in July last year accused of spray-painting graffiti tags on top of the city’s Clarendon Centre.

But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not bring a working copy of key CCTV footage from the centre and the case collapsed.

Thames Valley Police did not respond to Oxford Mail requests for comment about prosecutions, or how the force tackles graffiti.

Network Rail spokeswoman Victoria Bradley said: “While we try to remove all graffiti, our remit is to maintain and operate a safe and reliable railway, therefore we prioritise work to remove graffiti that could affect the safety of the railway.

“We also aim to remove any offensive graffiti within 24 hours.”

A BT spokesman said: “Everyone should keep in mind that the real villains here are the people who deface and vandalise buildings and equipment in Oxford. “This is an important issue because every minute spent clearing up this mess is a minute less spent on maintaining BT’s network..”

He added: “We are working with the council to play our part in a dual approach – prevention and reporting.”