Monday, August 2, 2010

Spray can vandals costing city £100k a year in clean up costs

SPRAY can vandals are causing thousands of pounds damage by leaving their ‘tags’ on prominent Oxford buildings.
Police are particularly trying to catch one culprit who has left the tag ‘SOAK’ in foot-high lettering across West Oxford and other parts of the city centre.
The graffiti tagger has struck at Oxford ice rink, in Rose Lane off the High Street, underneath the Botley Road railway bridge, underneath the railway bridge on the towpath between Osney Lock and Folly Bridge, and on fencing at Osney Lock.
The SOAK tag has also been sprayed on a Worcester College building off Hythe Bridge Street.
Poice are liaising with the city council to catch the graffiti sprayer, and other vandals leaving their tags on walls and buildings.


These include ‘Savoy Patas’, which has been sprayed at three different locations in Frideswide Square, and in Botley Road, the word ‘fail’ in pink paint (see pictures left), which has been sprayed on surfaces near SOAK in at least six different locations.
Another tagger – BNS – has vandalised four areas in the same road.
Susanna Pressel, Labour city councillor for Jericho and Osney, said: “This graffiti artist needs to be stopped and I have been talking to police about the problem.
“This has been going on for months but SOAK’s activities seem to have really increased in recent weeks.
“His efforts can be quite death-defying because some of the lettering on the rink is about 15 to 20 metres up – I don’t know how he got up there.
“It will definitely cost thousands of pounds to clear up the SOAK grafitti and he is not the only one leaving his mark – there could be dozens of graffiti artists operating in the city at the moment.
“Most of them are just little kids who will eventually grow out of it but they all need to be caught and stopped.”
Ms Pressel said that although she considered SOAK’s tag to be “quite artistic”, she did not believe graffiti should be treated as artwork.
“Tagging is horrible and the people doing it are just trying to make mischief,” she said.
“Each graffiti artist needs to be charged in a criminal court, pay a fine towards the cost of the clean-off, and take part in the cleaning process as part of community service.
“Whoever is doing this has been particularly prolific in the last few weeks.
“The money the council spends on the clean-up can’t be spent on play facilities or other ways of entertaining young people.”
She added: “People must have seen this graffiti artist at work because he would have had to stand in the road to spray underneath the Botley Road railway bridge.”
Chief Insp Cecilia Agger, of Thames Valley Police, said 48 graffiti offences in Oxford had been reported by members of the public since February.
There were 17 offences in the city reported in February, five in June and seven so far last month.
But she said the number did not represent a true reflection of the problem because many instances went unreported.
She said officers were pursuing a “line of inquiry” to catch the SOAK artist, and added: “As offences are reported, we investigate each individual offence and try to find witnesses who can identify who the tagger might be.
“We monitor social networking sites because some graffiti artists are filmed and then the footage goes online.
“We also monitor CCTV coverage of the city.”
The city council is only allowed to remove graffiti from public buildings and has to get permission from the owners of non-council properties before it steps in.
It spends more than £100,000 every year cleaning up graffiti tags.
Council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “We are well aware of a tagger who has been quite prolific in West Oxford.
“Offensive graffiti is unacceptable and we will endeavour to remove offensive or racist graffiti from council-owned buildings within one day of it being reported to us.
“Other graffiti is removed within five days of a report if it is in the city centre, or within 14 working days outside of the city centre.”
Thames Valley Police spokesman David Staines added: “Officers are investigating these incidents using intelligence that is available to them.

Taken from: Oxford Times

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