Graffiti vandalism is a crime. It is the act of marking or defacing premises or other property without permission. Graffiti vandalism significantly affects individuals and the community. The removal and prevention of graffiti vandalism is very costly to the community. Tens of millions of tax payer dollars are being spent annually on cleaning up graffiti and repairing the damage that it causes. Spending this public money on cleaning graffiti means that money is not being spent on things that can benefit the community.
Graffiti vandalism can be a dangerous activity. Graffiti is often applied in dangerous locations, such as along train tracks, train corridors and train tunnels. The Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator (ITSRR) has reported that the majority of recorded rail fatalities are trespassers on the rail network.
Graffiti may also be affecting both the health of those who do it because they breathe in fumes from aerosol paint. It could also be affecting the environment because of the chemicals being used to remove it.
Graffiti is also a complete social issue and involves paint, pens (permanent markers and paint) and knives/sharp objects for that scratch/etch.
Around 250 million cans of paint aerosol cans are sold in Australia each year. The convenience and unique benefits of the aerosol package illustrated by aerosol paint products allows the home handyman to achieve professional quality finishes. Playing the ‘blame game’ and seeking to make manufacturers and retailers responsible for what is a complex social problem will not solve the graffiti problem.
Removing graffiti can be a time consuming and difficult job. By taking preventative action you can avoid some of the expense and effort of removing graffiti.
Keep your property clean and tidy, and free of rubbish, weeds and damage, to show that you care about your property and that vandalism will not be tolerated. Encourage your neighbours to maintain their properties so the whole neighbourhood appears neat and clean.
Consider installing a metal cyclone fence, a fence constructed with natural materials (eg, bamboo or bush reed), or bar fencing (eg, pool or wrought iron fencing) that does not offer the flat continuous surface graffiti vandals prefer. Textured surfaces are difficult to spray paint and make graffiti hard to read. Graffiti vandals are less likely to vandalise such surfaces as they won’t get the recognition they desire.
Discourage graffiti vandals from vandalising your walls and fences by painting them with darker colours. Graffiti is less noticeable on darker coloured surfaces and is less likely to give the vandal the recognition they are looking for. Always keep extra paint on hand so graffiti vandalism can be covered-over quickly.
For areas that are repeatedly vandalised, use graffiti resistant materials or protective coatings so graffiti can be easily removed.
Install trellis on blank walls and fences to create an uneven surface. Alternatively, plant thorny and/or climbing vegetation in front of walls and fences to deter graffiti vandals. Climbing plants will make the surface difficult to graffiti.
Ensure your property has adequate security to prevent access by graffiti vandals. Restrict access to walls and other flat surfaces by installing locks, fences and gates. Secure items such as benches, barbecues and wheelie bins so they can’t be used to gain access to walls or rooftops.
Graffiti vandalism is often conducted in areas that are poorly lit in order to reduce the risk of getting caught or reported. Consider motion-activated lights and request your local council install lighting in community areas that are often dark and vandalised with graffiti.
Report instances of graffiti vandalism to your local Graffiti Hotline at the earliest opportunity.
One of the most effective strategies against illegal graffiti is to remove it as quickly as possible and to persist in removing it every time it occurs.
The three key steps in effective graffiti removal and prevention are:
- Identify the surface type and substance to be removed.
- Select the appropriate removal method.
- Where possible apply preventative measures.
Where practicable, graffiti is always more easily removed if done so as soon as possible after occurrence and before the paint has fully dried.
- Surface types and appropriate removal methods;
- Porous surfaces;
- Non-porous surfaces;
- Preventative measures.
Surface types and Appropriate Removal Methods
The most common surface types for graffiti vandalism are:
- Porous surfaces such as brickwork, concrete and soft stone.
- Non-porous or painted surfaces such as colourbond steel and sign posts.
The most important thing to remember when removing graffiti from porous surfaces is to use the correct graffiti removal solution. Solutions vary, but typically the stronger the solution, such as a chemical solvent, the faster it will dissolve or remove paint. These solutions can be bought from local suppliers in your area. The strength of solution needed depends on the type of surface the graffiti is on. It is also important to take the proper safety precautions. It is a good idea to use face shields and rubber gloves when using graffiti removal solutions. To remove graffiti from porous surfaces:
- Apply the appropriate graffiti removal solution onto the surface with a small brush.
- After waiting between 10 and 20 minutes, use either a hose or water-blaster to remove the graffiti.
For graffiti on non-porous or painted surfaces such as colourbond steel and sign-posts the only really effective removal technique is to actually repaint the defaced area. This involves either repainting the whole wall, or targeting just the graffitied area itself. This means that the paint has to be colour matched to the original wall’s paint colour.
To colour match the paint you need to obtain a small paint sample from the graffitied site. Then just take the sample to your local hardware store where it can be colour-matched. It is good practice to label and store any unused paint so it is available to cover repeat graffiti at the same site. To paint out graffiti incidents on non-porous surfaces:
- Using a brush or roller you must first apply a coat of stain blocker (primer) to the graffitied area. You need to put this primer on first otherwise you will find that the graffiti shows through the layers of fresh paint. This takes around 15 minutes to dry.
- Still using a brush or roller, apply colour-matched paint, usually this would be acrylic paint. A second coat may be required.
You will find that if the graffiti is very fresh and the paint has not yet dried the graffiti can be removed using the appropriate graffiti removal solution for non-porous surfaces and some steel wool.
Note: this can only be done in the first few days of the graffiti being applied. If a texta pen has been used, methylated spirits can be effective.
Applying preventative or anti-graffiti coatings are also an effective way to prevent graffiti vandalism.
There are two types of anti-graffiti coatings:
- non-sacrificial or permanent.
Sacrificial coatings are protective, but come off when graffiti is removed and must be reapplied. Non-sacrificial or permanent anti-graffiti coatings are unaffected by the graffiti removal process and remain on the surface, however they are more hazardous and difficult to apply. These coatings can be bought from local suppliers in your area.
SOME ANTI-GRAFFITI TECHNOLOGIES
Solvent-Based Protective Coatings
Specially formulated acrylic latex-based coatings can be purchased for application to the exterior of masonry surfaces. These coatings are not recommended for surfaces that have been previously painted. The coating operates by sealing the surface. The graffiti is then unable to penetrate the surface and can be easily cleaned off using normal cleaning methods.
Where this fails or is only partly successful, both the graffiti and the anti-graffiti coating may be removed using paint strippers or a strong aromatic solvent. The work would normally be undertaken using long bristle brushes and preferably a face mask complying with Australian Standard 1715. Particular care needs to be taken in doing this with special attention given to the instructions provided with the solvent or paint stripper.
Water-Based Protective Coatings
For those who prefer a water-based coating there are two pack water-based clear permanent anti-graffiti coatings which may be used for the protection of uncoated and coated masonry substrates. These coatings may be used as a hard-wearing top coat, protecting masonry and many other substrates (including the wide range of coating systems from graffiti damage.) Typical applications include stairwells, office blocks, schools, public toilets, railway stations, shops, office buildings, universities and public buildings.
The tough nature of these coatings enables the use of quite harsh cleaning compounds which may be necessary to remove certain types of graffiti. These coatings are not only effective in the fight against graffiti but may also be used for their decorative purposes.
Graffiti vandalism is not just unsightly. It can also reduce people’s sense of safety by:
- giving the impression that nobody cares about the affected area;
- attracting further crime and delinquency to that place.
Graffiti vandalism is also against the law and should be reported.
Take action and report graffiti vandalism to the following Government Hotlines:
|NSW||Free Call 1800 707 125|
|VIC||1300 365 111 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000
|QLD||1800 333 000 for graffiti on public or government-owned assets
131 444 on personal property
|SA||On road signs: 1800 018 313
In the act: 131 444
|WA||Free Call 1800 44 22 55|
|NT||08 8999 5511|