POLICE are appealing for public help to catch a gang of graffiti vandals responsible for more than 100 tags across Oxford.

Officers now believe more than one person is responsible for the ‘Soak’ tag and similar scrawlings blighting the city and costing council taxpayers thousands to clean up.

The graffiti taggers defaced Oxford Ice Rink, in Oxpens, this week adding the challenge: ‘Try stop this tagger’.

The ‘Soak’ tag has been sprayed dozens of times across the city, ranging from giant lettering to tiny references on doors, garages, shop fronts, trees and bus stops.

Police believe a group of people working together are responsible and last night appealed for the public’s help to catch the culprits.

Sgt Claire Storry, of the city centre police team, said: “Over the last couple of months it has been building up, but over the last week, things have got progressively worse. The ice rink has been hit massively.

“They have been putting things like ‘I am like malaria’ everywhere and ‘You won’t get this tagger’.

“A lot of it is taunting since the article in the Oxford Mail on Monday. It’s definitely the worst it’s been for a long time. It’s down Cowley Road and in Littlemore too. From the untrained eye, we think it’s a group of people doing the tagging. The writing is very different on the tags.”

She added: “We need to find out who they are and we really need the public’s help.

“What I don’t want is people ringing in with every single ‘Soak’ that they see.

“I want to know who is doing it rather than where it is.

“I think it’s a group of people and they are now going around taking the mick now. We want to nip it in the bud.”

Sgt Storry, who said officers had been using the Internet for clues to the tag, added: “It’s annoying and it’s expensive to get off.

“It makes the city look run down and dirty. Graffiti makes you think of deprived areas.”

City councillor Susanna Pressel said it was the most visible graffiti tag the city had probably had in its history. She added: “If you look at it in terms of square metres – it’s certainly the most visible.”

She urged the public to report the problem by dialing 999 if they saw any artists in action.

Sgt Storry said CCTV operators were on high alert looking for the taggers and that plain-clothes officers were patrolling the city at night to catch the vandals.

She estimated there were at least 100 tags across the city, but she admitted she had no way of telling exactly how many had sprung up.

Oxford City Council estimates it spends more than £100,000 a year clearing up graffiti in the city.

Anyone with information about who is responsible for the recent spate of vandalism should contact Sgt Storry on 08458 505505 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

  • The Oxford Mail has spoken to a man who claims to be one of the city’s most prolific graffiti artists.

The 21-year-old man — who calls himself Pahnl but requested his real name wasn’t printed — said he did not know who was responsible for the ‘Soak’ tags but appreciated the ‘skill’ involved.

He said he thought Oxford should be doing more to support graffiti artists, adding: “What’s so great about grey walls anyway?

“How much would it cost to designate a few stretches of walls as legal? Not a lot.”

He said it was hypocritical of the city authorities to allow firms to put up adverts on billboards but to clamp down on people expressing themselves.

Asked if he ever worried about being arrested for his work, he said: “Being quick helps.”