NATIONAL litter-buster Keep Australia Beautiful has fired a new salvo in the war against rubbish, calling on home owners and businesses to help wipe out graffiti by cleaning if off as soon as it appears.
Keep Australia Beautiful Chief Executive Officer Peter McLean said research revealed graffiti vandals or 'taggers' enjoyed seeing their handiwork on display and that immediate removal prevented copycat offences and vandals from seeing the fruits of their labour.
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Mr McLean is calling on businesses and home owners to show their support for Graffiti Free Week from March 16 - 22 by reporting visual litter to the police or local council or cleaning it off wherever possible.
"The estimated cost of graffiti and other forms of vandalism to the Australian community is a massive $2.7 billion a year, making visual litter the new scourge in our fight against litter bugs," Mr McLean said.
"Apart from the clean-up costs, there are other economic ramifications; people and businesses avoid these areas and real estate prices suffer.''
The Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General estimated the clean-up cost of graffiti was $200 million per year with $5.5 million spent on wiping visual litter off rail infrastructure.
Last year 128 offenders were ordered to perform 1,160 hours of clean-ups across Queensland, on the Gold Coast alone about 3,500 square metres of buildings and other structures were re-painted because of graffiti.
Mr McLean said research showed communities with high levels of graffiti attracted further crime.
"Graffiti can lead to an increase in crime in an area as well as a rise in the fear of crime because it suggests neglect and apathy," he said.
"Neighbourhoods are then on a downward spiral.''
Mr McLean said Keep Queensland Beautiful ran an Adopt-a-Spot program in which individuals, businesses and community groups removed graffiti from designated places but more ammunition was required to win the visual litter war.
"For the first time, KAB is including graffiti in its annual National Litter Index which surveys the amount and type of litter across the country,'' he said.
"This information tells where the problem hot spots are located and serves as a trend indicator for future policy decisions.
"Just like littering, graffiti is deliberate disrespectful conduct which degrades communities and the environment and the cost of cleaning it up is becoming astronomical.
"Research shows there are currently an estimated 1,470,398 cases of criminal damage each year across the country with the cost per offence gauged to be $1,853.''
Mr McLean said anyone in doubt of the seriousness of the issue need only compare the cost of graffiti to other crimes:
- Fraud: $6 billion
- Drug Abuse: $3 billion
- Assault: $3 billion
- Criminal Damage: (vandalism and graffiti) $2.7 billion
- Arson: $2.3 billion
KAB is teaming up with its sister organisation, Keep New Zealand Beautiful, to launch a trans-Tasman assault on visual litter.
"This is a concerted, combined effort to raise awareness of the cost and visual pollution of graffiti,'' Mr McLean said.
During Graffiti Free Week, KAB is urging Queenslanders to target a tagger in their local community by dobbing them in to local authorities, calling Graffiti Stop on 1300 427 334 or reporting confidentially online www.graffitistop.com.au.
Top tips for targeting taggers:
- Report new graffiti and offenders as soon as possible. Most councils, police and state governments have a reporting service.
- Repair and get rid graffiti ASAP to discourage further conduct.
- Educate fellow residents and business owners that graffiti is vandalism and has no artistic merit.
- Apply to local councils for assistance to have graffiti removed from private property.
- Consult a landscape designer on ways to deter illegal graffiti through environmental design elements.
- Adopt-a-Spot: Invite the local community to keep a part of their area clean and graffiti-free. Sign up at adoptaspot.org.au
- Download the Keep Queensland Beautiful smartphone app from iTunes or Android app stores and report graffiti.