A NEW war on graffiti is being waged by Oxford City Council after a big surge in the number of reported cases.

Figures obtained by the Oxford Mail reveal that the amount of graffiti the public reports to the council has been sharply rising year on year since 2014.

Oxford Mail: Oxford City graffiti - Chapel Street east Oxford.6.12.2017.Picture by Ed Nix...

Some areas - including Jericho and St Clement's - are especially blighted by the strain of vandalism, with persistent tags like 'soak' and 'ZUZ' plaguing some locations for years.

This year’s figures show the number of incidents reported to the city council soared above the previous year by more than 1,000 to 2,914 cases.

The council rose to the challenge and managed to remove 2,344.

Tom Hayes is board member for community safety at the city council and faces a growing problem with graffiti in his St Clement's ward.

He said: "Unwanted graffiti blights communities. It's an eyesore for everyone.

"People rightly are proud of the appearance of their neighbourhoods and nobody wants vandals running around where they live."

Oxford Mail: Tom Hayes in St Clement's with the graffiti removal team

Mr Hayes notes that that each sharp rise in the number of reported incidents is countered by an even sharper rise in the number of removals.

He believes the increased number of reports is down to the increased work and visibility of the council's graffiti removal team.

He continued: "Increased reporting leads to increased removal. More and more people are aware of the graffiti removal service we offer, as well as the council's speed and effectiveness at cleaning away unwanted graffiti.

"Word of mouth has meant that more and more people are reporting graffiti when they spot it, which helps enormously at stopping vandalism from taking place."

In response to public demand, the council has been focusing its resources to clamp down on those targeting private and public land with spray paint and marker pens over the past few years.

This process has included creating a role dedicated to graffiti.

In May 2015 the city council made Poly Smart its graffiti removal supervisor, a role dedicated to overseeing the council's fight against the vandalism.

In addition to Ms Smart, the graffiti removal team is made up of members of the council's Streetscene team, which also handles a wide range of other work to maintain Oxford's streets, like emptying public bins, cleaning streets and removing fly-tipping.

It is, as with most crime, prevalent in some areas more than others. The council is now prioritising St Clement's due to the level of reports there, but other areas, including North Oxford, also face a big graffiti problem.

Rosanne Bostock, of OxClean, an organisation dedicated to cleaning the city’s streets, believes graffiti is on the rise.

She said: “The problem is that there is a spate of graffiti all over North Oxford and the city centre, frequently on brickwork, which is doubtless more difficult to remove.

“The matter is serious and it is getting steadily worse. The more there is, the more there is.”

Ms Bostock has said that more CCTV may help catch vandals in the act, which could then lead to prosecution.

The council has to request permission from the owners of private property before it can clean up graffiti there - and it comes at a cost.

Oxford City Council charges £30 per hour per person on top of £15 per square metre for the removal of graffiti from privately-owned property between Monday and Friday.

Oxford Mail: Oxford City graffiti - South Parade (by Woodstock Road).6.12.2017.Picture by Ed Nix...

Many, however, choose not to pay for this service because they feel they shouldn't have to, or because the cost is too high.

This was the case for the owner of the shop at Walton Street post office, which in 2014 underwent repairs to the building and had a repainting job costing thousands of pounds.

Two weeks later the building was attacked by graffiti 'artists'.

At the time, 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."

In October, a graffiti-beating canal mural project was launched following Oxford's 'horrifying' appearance on TV has won a national award.

The Oxford Canal featured on Channel 4's 'Great Canal Journeys', which saw Prunella Scales and Timothy West travelling through the city.

But the pair were horrified by the graffiti which had ruined the gateway into Oxford.

Residents then began a community project to professionally paint murals on the affected bridges to improve the environment.

Thames Valley Police were approached for information on how they deal with graffiti - but did not respond.