Turning the tide of the graffiti which is blighting the district is behind a raft of extra measures taken by Canterbury City Council in recent weeks.
Councillors from the cross-party Community Committee recently condemned the actions of the vandals whose actions are costing council taxpayers thousands of pounds to clean up after them.
Douglas Rattray, the council’s Head of Safer Neighbourhoods, said: “These people are causing criminal damage which is a crime and one that is investigated by the police. What might be considered by some to be low-level anti-social behaviour is having a real and tangible impact on our community.
“Graffiti adds to the fear of crime for people living, working and studying here and spoils an area that attracts thousands of visitors from home and abroad which contribute to the vibrancy of the local economy.
“It is also costing the residents affected, businesses, the utilities, public transport providers such as Network Rail and council taxpayers thousands and thousands of pounds to clean. This is not a victimless crime.
“We have been working on this issue for some time and this money would be much better spent on other frontline services.
“It is especially galling when we clean an area or remove a tag and the vandals take it as an opportunity to offend all over again. The public thinks we just haven’t bothered.”
The extra action the council has already taken includes:
- The appointment of an officer dedicated to monitoring online reports and carrying out spot cleans. He has removed more than 400 tags since his appointment in October
- Support for the council’s contractor Serco in the training of an extra graffiti cleaning operative as it copes with increasing demand. Private properties are entitled to free cleans up to four times a year. Businesses are entitled to free cleans up to twice a year. Both depend on the receipt of a waiver giving the council permission
- Spending £5,600 to blitz Toddlers Cove and the Castle Street multi-storey car park and neighbouring areas removing 234 tags in the process. The wall at Toddlers Cove was tagged again soon after
- Writing to Kent Police and the Crown Prosecution Service asking them to do all they can to catch and prosecute graffiti vandals
- Writing to retailers reminding them they should not sell aerosol spray paint to under 16s and they could be fined £2,500 if they do
- Writing to residents and businesses who are regular victims of graffiti to explain what help is on hand
- Making it easier to report graffiti online
- Creating a graffiti group which includes the council, Kent Police and the Canterbury Connected Business Improvement District (BID) to share intelligence and share information on graffiti prevention
- Using government funding to supply the BID with graffiti wipes
In the coming weeks, the council plans to:
- Install cameras in graffiti hotspots in the hope of catching the vandals in the act
- Appoint a second officer focused on sharing intelligence with the police, supporting businesses and the utilities to clean graffiti from their premises or arranging for the council to do it for them for a fee
- Use the new officer to issue, as a last resort, Community Protection Warnings or Community Protection Notices to those property owners which, after numerous offers of help and repeated warnings, do not tackle graffiti on their premises, starting with those who have substantial holdings or very high-profile buildings
- Identify tagging hotspots within the city, Herne Bay and Whitstable that will benefit from anti-graffiti paint which makes it easier to clean, then supplying the paint
On receipt of a waiver, the council’s contractor Serco will clean graffiti from private properties for free up to four times in a year and twice for a business.
Serco also removes offensive graffiti for free as quickly as possible.