What happens when graffiti is not acted upon.

To remove graffiti or not to remove graffiti? This question perplexes many first-time victims of graffiti vandalism. While graffiti is commonly looked down upon, not everyone is in a rush to do something about it.

There are common attitudes and myths, as well as an inconsistent level of public knowledge on how to handle graffiti vandalism.

One point of view which is common in high-traffic inner city areas and some lower socio-economic suburbs is that there’s simply no point in removing graffiti. Some individuals view graffiti as part of a street-art culture, or they become so conditioned to seeing it that they barely notice it anymore. “Most of the shops in my street have graffiti, if I remove it, it’ll appear again next week.”

This perspective was held by the management of the Dan Murphy’s bottle shop in Brunswick East. Their graffiti woes started when a couple of small tags appeared on the street-facing wall of their shop. Over time, further incidents of graffiti vandalism occurred on the walls of the shop and the car park fence (see images below).

The level of graffiti vandalism was so high that passers-by could be forgiven for assuming the shop had closed down and been abandoned! It certainly didn’t reflect the image and professionalism of a successful national brand. Studies have found that 95% of shoppers consider exterior appearance to be important when choosing a retailer, with over 50% avoiding a business due to its dirty exterior1.

By not acting upon the initial graffiti incident, Dan Murphy’s had unknowingly invited vandals to use their property as a canvas. They enjoy having their tags on display and will seek alternative locations if their graffiti is promptly removed.

Continual graffiti vandalism isn’t the only problem retailers face. Graffiti is a gateway crime for many troubled teenagers, often leading on to shoplifting, destruction of property (such as broken windows) and other forms anti-social behaviour2. Removing graffiti within 48 hours is the most effective way of avoiding ongoing issues3.

After the graffiti was removed, the shop regained its professional and welcoming image, and regained customers.

Those with non-customer facing operations such as warehouses and factories in industrial locations, sometimes display a care-free disposition towards graffiti. They don’t realise this mindset is causing them harm and believe it will only affect their bottom line if they spend money removing it.

Industrial properties are particularly vulnerable to graffiti vandalism and its accompanying side effects. These areas are often targeted due to the minimal human presence at night and weekends. The large, high walls offer high visibility for graffiti and displays the risks overcome by the perpetrator3 (see image below).

These properties are particularly vulnerable to the cost of graffiti. The best case scenario is that you have to spend money removing graffiti from large walls. The worst case could involve dealing with a break in, destruction of property, theft and the cost of graffiti removal.

One recent example was the graffiti of a workshop in Queensland town of Gympie. Graffiti vandals broke into the workshop, sprayed graffiti throughout the workshop and on 19 classic trains which were undergoing restoration by volunteers5.

By removing graffiti quickly, you’ll be sending the graffiti vandals to another location. Additional precautions which industrial property owners can utilise include high fencing and a range of deterrents such as video surveillance (even fake cameras can be effective), security patrols, signs warning of security patrols and dogs, and growing large non-deciduous plants against walls and fences.

We also speak to property owners who are confused as to who’s responsible for removing graffiti. This mostly applies to those with walls or fences adjacent to public land.

If the graffiti occurs on your property, it’s your responsibility to remove it and incur the costs of any removal services used. Some council’s offer free graffiti removal services and in some cases will approach property owners and offer to remove graffiti if it’s publically visible and contains offensive messages.

However, as councils have time and budget limitations, these are usually band-aid solutions. For example, one council lists their two graffiti removal methods as pressure washing and painting over (see image below), stating that “This may leave some shadow of original graffiti in/on porous or raw surfaces” and “The colour selected by our authorised personnel, from a limited colour palette”6.

DIY methods usually involve harsh chemicals such as bleach or hardware-store graffiti removers, or abrasive measures such as sanding, chiseling or blasting it away. Not only do these methods result in further staining, they cause hard surfaces such as bricks, concrete and render to crumble. These methods attempt to remove the graffiti from the surface in a harsh manner, instead of carefully breaking down its molecular structure and drawing it to the surface.

Having the right insurance policy can cover the cost of graffiti removal services, so why not have all traces of the vandalism completely removed?

The Graffiti Eaters are Australia’s first Graffiti Removal company with over 40 years’ experience. We are trusted to maintain the assets of Australia’s largest retailers such as Woolworths, Kmart, KFC and 7/11, as well as banks, schools, body corporates and residential properties.

Request a quote for graffiti removal in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

1 Retail Customer Experience

2 Australian Institute of Criminology

3 NSW Department of Justice Attorney General

4 Australian Institute of Criminology

5 Gympie Times

6 Glen Eira City Council