Taking action to tackle graffiti
The poor appearance of the local environment can have a significant impact on behaviour, with the lack of pride in an area leading to further degradation. For this reason, graffiti should be removed swiftly and offenders prevented from doing it again. Evidence has shown that if graffiti is removed rapidly and persistently, offenders are less likely to return.
Many street cleansing teams now provide a rapid response service in removing graffiti. Protective paint coatings can also be useful but this needs to be supported with enforcement.
The law on graffiti
Graffiti is illegal and prosecutions can be brought under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 (section 1). Prosecution can lead to a jail sentence of up to 10 years, a hefty fine, or a detention and training order for those under the age of 18.
Although tracing offenders can be difficult because of the nature of graffiti and the times at which they may occur, the use of CCTV, electronic databases and public reporting can help in identifying culprits and sharing information about offences.
The British Transport Police operates a database of taggers that may be accessed by practitioners, not only to help trace those responsible, but also to assist in presenting evidence in court. Known hotspots can also be targeted to deal with repeat offenders.
Some authorities, including the British Transport Police, have found antisocial behaviour orders (ASBOs) useful to address those that repeatedly cause criminal damage. These are especially relevant to those that cause criminal damage to intimidate, such as offensive graffiti.
ASBOs are civil orders made by a court which prohibit the perpetrator from specific anti-social acts and from entering defined areas on a map (exclusion zones). The agency applying for an ASBO must provide evidence to the court showing that the person accused behaved in an antisocial manner, which is defined in section 1(1) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 as acting in a way that caused, or was likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
A range of other court orders are available for dealing with environmental anti-social behaviour, including Community Service Orders. Comprehensive information and practical guidance is available on the Home Office Together website at www.together.gov.uk and this includes a set of good practice guides aimed specifically at tackling vandalism and other forms of criminal damage. Click here to find out more.