‘Idiots’ blamed for graffiti rise in Exeter as 1,100 incidents are recorded in four-and-a-half months

‘Idiots’ responsible for a rise in graffiti is on the rise in Exeter have been slammed after 1,100 incidents were recorded in just four-and-a-half months. 

City council statistics for April 1 to August 16 amount to an average of eight offences a day, writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

It has meant demand for the authority’s spray-paint removal service, suspended for nine months until April because of the Covid crisis, has ‘remained high’, its Strategic Scrutiny Committee was told.

St Thomas representative Councillor Rob Hannaford said: “We’re talking about tagging of other people’s property. It’s not art, it’s just a nuisance.

“The recent context particularly has been a source of huge anger and frustration because we’ve just been though the global pandemic.

“By and large the city council’s magnificent – they’ve stepped up to the mark providing all sorts of services.

“They didn’t lose bin collections or anything – the wheels literally stayed on the wagon and on top of the that we’ve been giving out grants and helping businesses and individuals and all the rest of it.

“But on the other hand, you’ve had these idiots going around tagging all this stuff on other people’s properties and downgrading the neighbourhoods.”

Cllr Hannaford stressed that he was not talking about those who produce public art and murals.

The committee was told budget constraints meant the graffiti removal service had one full-time employee, but funding had been secured to extend it to seven days a week.

A council officer said the biggest problem was that the authority does not own most of the buildings being vandalised, adding: “This reduces our ability to remove graffiti in many cases.”

The council website will no longer accept reports of graffiti on land it does not own.

A report to members added: “It could be perceived that [the council]has admonished responsibility and lost engagement in the graffiti concerns city-wide.

“However, whilst the service is now directing reports to individual landowners, [the council]have continued to engage and maintain close working relationships with those agencies.”

The report added that the council is continuing work with other organisations ‘on their behalf where they have requested and paid for the service’.

Councillors were all told special ‘graffiti walls’ – such as those already in place in Belmont Park and the Exwick Station Road play area – could help prevent illegal spray-painting elsewhere.

“The walls are frequently used for large murals, which is testament to the popularity of the provision, however, tags and additional graffiti continues to appear on the peripheries of each site despite the use of those walls,” said the report.

“This is a base indication that, whilst popular, the walls are unlikely to be a cost-effective prevention strategy unless surrounding areas are free of built infrastructure, as there will always be the need to extend beyond the boundaries of the existing provision.”

Councillors noted the report and recommended that the Community Safety Partnership provides more details on the profile of people who are responsible for the graffiti in Exeter.

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