Preventing graffiti and vandalism - ?· Preventing Graffiti and Vandalism Ms Susan Geason First City…

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<p>PREVENTING GRAFFITI AND VANDALISM </p> <p>Susan Geason First City Communications </p> <p>Sydney </p> <p>Paper presented at Designing Out Crime: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) </p> <p>convened by the Australian Institute of Criminology and NRMA Insurance and held at the Hilton Hotel, Sydney, 16 June 1989 </p> <p>Preventing Graffiti and Vandalism </p> <p>Ms Susan Geason First City Communications Sydney Differences and Similarities </p> <p>When the media indulge in their periodic outbursts of outrage at vandalism and graffiti, the picture they usually present is one of wilful destruction by young, alienated, often socially- and economically-disadvantaged teenagers. The truth is much more complex. Vandalism and graffiti are very different problems, and each is multi-faceted. Not all graffiti is written by alienated teenagers, and not all vandalism constitutes wilful damage. Before we can begin to devise solutions, therefore, we must understand the problems. </p> <p>Graffiti tests the axiom that beauty is in the eye of the be holder. To many train travellers graffiti is ugly, anti-social daubs, while for the kids who write them, it may be the only self-expression they know, perhaps their only claim to fame. Imaginative graffiti can make the concrete walls or dilapidated factory walls it decorates look a lot better, and some artists, sociologists and writers even reward graffiti as a sophisticated art form, calling it "spraycan art". (A point of view which, I might add, tends to make railway officials and maintenance crews somewh at irritable.) </p> <p>For some exponents, graffiti is a powerful propaganda tool. Many anti-smokers, critics of the consumer society and even judges are supportive of the efforts of "Billboard-Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions" (BUGA UP), in defacing billboard advertisements for what they see as harmful products. </p> <p>Similarly, not all vandalism is anti-social. A great deal (estimates run as high as three-quarters) is unintentional. That is, it results from poor design which can't stand up to wear and tear; or it is caused by people adapting their environment to make it work better; or it results from kids being kids. In these cases there is no intention to cause damage, but the result is viewed by others as vandalism. </p> <p>I will give you some examples of unintentional vandalism. Flimsy doors without door stops are quickly damaged in busy entrances. People take short cuts across lawns because the paths are in the wrong places. This happened on Broadway, in Sydney, where Fairfax journalists from across the road wore a path through the University of Technology's newly landscaped gardens to reach the main road and killed the grass; the University eventually gave in and formalised the pathway. </p> <p>Other examples are: people making holes in fences for short-cuts; damage to the backs of public seats because people sit on them; and bikes propped up against shop windows breaking glass because there is nowhere else to leave them. In most of these cases, the problem could have been avoided by better planning and design maybe even by using a little common sense about human nature. You don't need a market research company to tell you people will always take the shortest route from A to B unless physical or psychological barriers prevent them. </p> <p>Criminologists have come up with the following categories of vandalism: </p> <p>2</p> <p> Acquisitive vandalism damage done to acquire money or property, e.g. damaging telephone boxes. </p> <p> Tactical vandalism damage done to achieve another end like smashing a window to commit a robbery. </p> <p> Ideological vandalism to further a cause or get a message across, such as slogans on buildings and BUGA UP's billboard defacement. </p> <p> Play vandalism damage inflicted incidentally or deliberately as part of a game or competition. I seem to recall throwing rocks at street lights was a favourite pastime of small boys in my day. </p> <p> Malicious vandalism damage done to express rage or frustration scratching paintwork on expensive cars springs to mind. </p> <p> Innocuous vandalism damage done to property regarded by young people as unimportant or of no value e .g. slashing railway seats. </p> <p>I am not absolutely convinced by some of these categories slashing railways seats doesn't seem all that "innocuous" to me, but this confusion about names is probably a reflection of confusion about the motives of some offenders. We can see what motivates tactical, ideological and vindictive vandalism, but the motives behind play, malicious and innocuous vandalism- most common on railways -are much less clear, and the problem, unfortunately, much more widespread. </p> <p>In the Institute of Criminology's forthcoming publication Preventing Graffiti and Vandalism, which I co-wrote with Paul Wilson, we took a situational crime prevention approach, described in some detail by earlier speakers. That is, we concentrated on changing the environment to minimise the opportunity for the offender to cause damage, rather than trying to change the offender's character or motivation. The attraction of this approach is that it can work in the short term while researchers and policy makers work on longer-term solutions to the problem of crime. </p> <p>Examples of opportunity reduction would be using materials that are resistant to scratching and marking, improved lighting and better design to reduce vandals' cover, security patrols, restrictions on the sale of spray-paints and markers, community surveillance, and even electronic surveillance. </p> <p>Before I launch into specific situational crime prevention strategies for graffiti and vandalism, I will give you a thumbnail sketch of the scope of the problem facing public and private property owners. </p> <p>Telecom Australia spends $18 million annually repairing telephone vandalism, and in Liverpool, England, before an anti-vandalism campaign began to bite, half the city's public phones were out of commission at any given time. </p> <p>The NSW Government's school arson bill has escalated to $16.5 million over the past two-and-a-half years; while arson in English schools has been costing between 25 and 30 million pounds annually. </p> <p>Graffiti clean-ups are now costing the NSW State Rail Authority (SRA) $7 million a year, and the MET Melbourne's urban rail system spends $5 million annually. </p> <p>3</p> <p>NSW Transport Investigation Police tell of a gang of nine spray-painters who caused $182,000 worth of damage in two nights. </p> <p>But the cost is not only a matter of dollars and cents. By 1988 six youths had been killed in NSW while painting graffiti on the outsides of trains, and many others were injured. Increased fear of crime is also a cost, and a 1986 Australian National Opinion Poll (ANOP) survey of Sydney rail commuters found that 80 per cent of them were worried about their personal safety on trains. As a constant, all-hours train traveller, I personally regard this as a gross over-reaction to the real threat of violence on Sydney trains, but perhaps as an ex-journalist, I am a little less susceptible than the general public to what I read newspapers, and as an ex-market researcher, I tend to reserve judgment on some poll results. </p> <p>But to get back to real rather than perceived problems, in vandalised or fire-damaged schools, pupils and teachers are inconvenienced, schooling is disrupted and many children are severely disadvantaged when resources like libraries and science laboratories are put out of action. </p> <p>In housing estates the elderly and the vulnerable are afraid to go out, playgrounds are destroyed, and those living in the estates suffer from the stigma of coming from damaged and vandalised homes. </p> <p>Public Housing </p> <p>As vandalism is a major problem in public housing, I will start there. Housing authorities need to take both a diagnostic and prognostic approach to vandalism. That is, they should look back and see what was damaged and replace it with something stronger; but they should anticipate future problems by using easy-to-maintain or replaceable materials and fittings. This dual approach will only work, however, if it is linked to a system of management which responds positively to feedback from users and maintenance staff. </p> <p>And for their part, architects have to tread a fine line between durability and good looks, as "hard" or unsympathetic architecture discourages people from using facilities. </p> <p>Wendy Sarkissian, who spoke to you this morning, came up with three major strategies for minimising vandalism in public housing in her 1984 study for the then NSW Housing Commission. </p> <p>She recommended: </p> <p> avoiding a high density of children; </p> <p> providing adequate facilities for youth to give them something to do; and </p> <p> making vandalism more difficult by using vandal-proof materials wherever possible. </p> <p>The following commonsense strategies emerged from the British and Australian research and case studies I examined for my book. </p> <p>4</p> <p> Management needs to be humane and consultative, partly as a desirable social goal in itself, but also to help instil a sense of ownership and pride in public housing tenants. </p> <p> There needs to be ongoing communications between the architects and designers who build the accommodation, and the maintenance staff who look after it. This way, design weaknesses can be picked up and rectified. </p> <p> Children's play should be managed so it does not turn into vandalism. </p> <p> Good maintenance is essential so that vandalised property and a general air of neglect do not encourage more destruction. </p> <p>In an excellent English book Designing Against Vandalism, published by the English Design Council in 1979, editor Jane Sykes gave the following design tips for preventing graffiti and vandalism: </p> <p> Apply approved graffiti such as murals or mosaics on tempting surfaces. </p> <p> Avoid soft-textured wall finishes that can be easily scratched, particularly if the surface is a different colour from the underlying material. </p> <p> Avoid light colours on walls. </p> <p> If you've given up on stopping graffiti altogether on a particular area, put in surfaces that are easy and inexpensive to renew. </p> <p> Protect vital structural elements, e.g. by cladding concrete with steel or a strong sheeting material. </p> <p> Install piping inside rather than outside a building. </p> <p> Below a height of 2 metres, drain pipes should be cast iron, and should be built up with concrete so they cannot be wrenched off a building and so bracket fixings cannot be used as footholds. </p> <p> Use toughened glass in ground-floor windows or where glass is easily broken by carelessness or heavy use. </p> <p> Install vandal-proof lifts. </p> <p> If warnings advertising penalties are to be used, pictorial signs are most effective, as many vandals are young or non-achievers. </p> <p>The Railways </p> <p>As graffiti and railways seem to be inextricably linked in the public imagination, I will now talk about the options available to transport authorities to reduce graffiti and vandalism on trains and railway property. </p> <p>In Sydney, rail authorities are urging people on late night trains not to sit alone, but rather to sit in a carriage marked with a blue light next to the guard. Some stations have closed circuit television and emergency phones, and transit police patrol the trains. </p> <p>5</p> <p>A few days ago someone suggested siting police stations in the airspace over railway stations to reduce the danger. This is a fine piece of lateral thinking and an imaginative use of crime prevention through environmental design, but I will not hold my breath waiting for it to happen. </p> <p>Those of you who live in Sydney will be watching with interest the SRA's latest policy of cutting out trains after midnight on many line. Though it is primarily a cost-cutting exercise, the Government is also selling it as a way of reducing violence on trains. </p> <p>The problem with this sort of approach is that, while it may solve the problem, it is a solution by default an admission of defeat. Uncurbed violence on public transport may simply impose an unofficial curfew on women. I think we have to be careful about locking up the weak to protect them from the strong. </p> <p>It seems to me that young women are most at risk in half empty trains on the far-flung outer suburban routes, on badly-lit, unstaffed stations, and in unpatrolled station carparks. Maybe shorter, patrolled trains, staffed stations and patrolled carparks could have saved some of the women who have been raped and even murdered on their way home by train at night. </p> <p>Experience in other countries shows that preventing or minimising graffiti and vandalism seems to depend on the right formula, or package, of measures. These include police or railway police presence, electronic surveillance, quick and effective clean-ups, education campaigns, restrictions on the weapons or tools used, and programs and activities which are more interesting for young people than bombing trains or hanging around railway stations making trouble. </p> <p>A lot of these tactics are simple common sense, but they do cost money: installing closed-circuit TV on very dangerous stations and guards on trains are expensive, but if these measures cost less than the amount spent on eradicating graffiti and fixing vandalism running at $7 million a year in NSW alone it has to be worth it. </p> <p>I am told that the SRA has adopted a policy of getting spray-painted trains cleaned up and back on the tracks in 12 hours, which is probably why some members of the public think graffiti is going out of fashion. Most expert opinion holds that kids do it mostly for the fame that comes from having their name up there on a moving train, and that instant clean-ups take the fun out of it for graffitists and act as a disincentive. </p> <p>I will be interested to see if the SRA's experience backs up the theory. It is extremely annoying for some of the transit police, whose role is more reactive than pro-active: from their point of view, quick clean-ups get rid of the evidence they need to nail the offenders. Personally, I'd rather see the kids drop out of the game from sheer frustration than end up in custody. </p> <p>The bullet our legislators do not seem to be prepared to bite -though they do chew on it from time to time is banning or restricting the sale of spray paints and non-water soluble marking pens. The railway police tell me banning or restricting the sale of spray paints to the over-18s is an impossible dream because of the amount of money involved for paint companies. They say tradesmen would be grossly disadvantaged, and they also say it would not stop graffitists, who would find other tools. And they </p> <p>6</p> <p>cite major break-ins at hardware stores to show that locking up spray paints does not work. </p> <p>I'm keeping an open mind on this one. It seems to me that concern at the cost of spray paints in property damage plus the cost to th...</p>