We’re often asked how to prevent graffiti vandalism. In this post we’ve collated some graffiti prevention strategies that you can use to reduce the risk of being targeted.
The psychology of graffiti
Graffiti vandalism is a way of self expression – often from troubled youths – and the desired effect is recognition by their peers as they spread their ‘tag’ far and wide.
Graffiti spreads rapidly if it’s not quickly managed. If not promptly removed, graffiti can build up and spread to surrounding surfaces and areas, as other vandals realise that their tags will remain.
By quickly removing the graffiti, this recognition is short lived, and sends a message to the offenders that the location is not worth the risk, as the gain to their reputation will be short lived.
Also most graffiti incidents are opportunistic attacks. By reducing the available opportunities on your property, you reduce risk of expensive vandalism cleanup or repairs.
What can I do to discourage graffiti vandalism?
Effective graffiti management starts at the design stage. If you’re planning a new building, or looking to reduce the occurrences of vandalism, consider the following strategies to make your property less appealing to vandals:
Consider the surfaces you are using
There is nothing more appealing to a graffiti vandal than a clean, smooth and light coloured wall or surface. Their spray paint and ink markers work better, the damage is harder to clean, and the result stands out giving them the recognition they desire.
By considering graffiti management at the design stage, you can reduce the risk of your property being targeted. Consider using:
- Rough, uneven surfaces like stone or brickwork.
- Non-porous materials that resist the ink or paint from setting in
- Permeable or semipermeable fencing instead of smooth walls susceptible to attack
- Dark or colourful surfaces that make the vandalism difficult to see
- Graffiti resistant materials or coatings
Many local councils across Australia now require the exterior of new buildings be constructed or painted with graffiti resistant materials. This proactive approach has seen a major decline in graffiti on council assets.
Install sufficient lighting
Most vandalism is done under the cover of darkness, reducing the offenders chances of being observed or caught.
Consider installing sensor lighting that turns on when movement is detected. Often this is an effective deterrent to vandalism, as the offender is surprised when it turns on. This moment of shock can often lead to the vandal deciding not to commit their opportunistic crime.
Also if the street lighting near your business is inadequate, approach your local council about installing a better lighting solution to increase community safety in the area.
Use plants and other vegetation
In attempting to combat graffiti, many businesses try to paint over the vandalism as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this often leads to a new blank canvas, and the vandalism returns shortly after.
In areas when repeat offending is common, it can often be an effective deterrent to use vegetation to cover the surface. Trees, hedges and creeping vegetation can be used to protect surfaces that otherwise would be targets for attack.
As the vandals will no longer be able to easily reach your walls and fences, they have no choice but to go elsewhere. Graffiti is a crime of opportunity, and by reducing the opportunities on your property, you will find that your graffiti maintenance costs are significantly reduced.
Recently, a Melbourne client of The Graffiti Eaters who had been victims of repeat vandalism attacks planted creeping vines on the side walls of their business. The walls were highly visible, and had become a target for tags and other graffiti.
The result of this strategy was a reduction in graffiti removal costs of 72%!
The attacks became less frequent, and as a bonus, they received compliments from customers about the new welcoming look and feel of their shop! Additionally, more plants is good for the environment.
Tip: don’t plant trees and plants that are too young, as they may be ripped out. Choose plants that are mature as they are less likely to be damaged, and cover more surface area.
Sometimes a simple reminder is enough to deter offenders.
The use of signage has proven to be one of the most effective tools in combating the psychology of vandals. Sending clear warning message – and reminder – against committing crime places you in their mind as a potential path to being caught.
By installing signage that indicates security patrols, guard dogs or video surveillance, a moment of doubt is introduced into the mind of the offender. It is this split second moment of hesitation that can often deter offenders.
Remember: most vandalism is opportunistic, so by indicating that there may be evidence or a chance of being caught, the offender often decides to choose an easier target.
While signage can be effective in decreasing graffiti attacks, combining it with several other prevention methods has proven to be most effective.
Limit mobility and access to target surfaces
Remembering that graffiti vandalism is often an opportunistic crime, don’t make it easy for vandals to reach areas to deface.
Limit access to target areas where possible by installing controlled entrances, rails and other barriers.
Also observe the area where you are targeted. Are the items that could assist offenders to reach highly visible surfaces?
These may include:
- Rubbish bins
- Outdoor furniture
- Drainpipes or other external fittings
Make sure these items are secured, and that you’re not inadvertently giving the vandals a helping hand.
Sometimes other graffiti deterrents like rough surfaces or vegetation are impractical to implement.Or perhaps your are located in a high risk area, and constantly tagged with vandalism.
In this case, consider applying protective anti-graffiti coatings to target surfaces.
Anti-graffiti coatings can be applied to most walls and structures, making graffiti removal quicker and cheaper. Depending on the type of ink or paint used by the vandals, the coatings often allow for graffiti to be removed without using harsh chemicals, saving you time, money and any OH&S any environmental risks. Anti-graffiti coatings also greatly reduce the potential of permanent damage to the underlying material that has been vandalised.
As an additional benefit, you may find your insurance premiums reduce as you take precaution to reduce your risk!
The Graffiti Eaters can advise, supply and install premium anti-graffiti coatings tailored to your needs. These include:
- Invisible or tinted anti-graffiti coatings
- Sacrificial anti-graffiti coatings
- Long life anti-graffiti coatings (between 8-10 years)
The preventative application of Anti Graffiti Coatings can see cleaning time reduced up to 45%, and cleaning costs reduced up to 50%
Security Cameras and Patrols
While vandals love to get their tags on any surface they can, they are adverse to being caught!
Security cameras can sometimes act as a deterrent, however one that can be effectively circumvented with a hoodie, cap and sunglasses! Besides, while they may capture the offense, they’re not going to bring your costs down unless they lead to a conviction.
If your only motivation to install a costly closed circuit camera system is to prevent graffiti, consider installing fake cameras instead. They are much cheaper and provide the same level of graffiti prevention deterrent as the real thing.
Mobile security patrols are also effective – but only if they are on site at the time the attack occurs. Most vandals will not attack while security is there, however unless you have 24 hour protection, the vandal will just come back when security has left.
We recommend trying the other strategies in this post as they have been found to be more effective at preventing crime than cameras and security patrols.
Sometimes, a location is just too hard to defend against repeat vandalism, and the owner decides to fight fire with fire.
Property owners sometimes take the approach of commissioning respected street artists to paint a mural on their wall. There is a big difference in public perception between mindless tagging or quick ‘throw up’ graffiti and a commissioned mural artwork by a talented artist.
The benefit of this approach is the unwritten law of graffiti, which is that vandals generally respect the more talented and accomplished members of the street art community. Most times vandals will not deface commissioned street art, fearing the retribution should they be caught.
To find our more about having graffiti removed from your property, contact us to receive your quote.