City of Melbourne seeks joint effort with state government to rid the city of graffiti as deterrence reaches critical point

Brendan Rees

The City of Melbourne has stepped up its fight against graffiti with a cleaning blitz soon to get under way in the city’s north-west.

It comes as the council battles to fight a 60 per cent increase in graffiti and tagging since the pandemic began – with councillors voting at their April 26 meeting to seek the “urgent assistance” of the state government to help combat the vandalism scourge.

The council is in the middle of a “graffiti blitz” which has seen clean-up crews hit the streets of the Southbank, Docklands, South Wharf, and Hoddle Grid areas as the council aims to improve public spaces and ensure the city was clean as workers, students and visitors return.

Since the blitz started in March about 14,000 square metres of graffiti has been removed – the equivalent of 50 tennis courts – after reports of graffiti almost tripled in volume.

 

Crews are now targeting North Melbourne and South Yarra – with Kensington, West Melbourne and Flemington areas to be completed in May.

 

The average time between graffiti being reported and cleaned has been five days – a 70 per cent reduction compared to January.  

According to a council report, “The blitz has had a noticeable impact on graffiti management and the cleanliness of the city.”

However, Lord Mayor Sally Capp conceded at the council meeting that “we don’t have the unlimited resources to just keep cleaning” and successfully moved a motion requesting the City of Melbourne work with the state government, Victoria Police, and M9 councils (an inner city-advocacy group) in a “coordinated approach to graffiti deterrents.” 

Cr Capp said a joint approach would ensure “our city has an opportunity not just to recover, but to literally be a city that can welcome people with its beautiful buildings, beautiful, physical environment that is not impacted in such a negative way by tagging and graffiti.”

“We’re seeing that heightened increase of tagging … we absolutely have to look more broadly and use the data more deeply and efforts to deter and prevent [the illegal behaviour].”

In approving the motion, the council will provide a breakdown of graffiti reports including by area, month, asset type, and response times for the 2021-22 financial year.

The council’s city activation portfolio lead Cr Roshena Campbell said preventing and deterring graffiti was critical and “looks at how we can best use the resources we have for cleaning the city.”

“Although we’ve invested heavily in a blitz, it’s not on its own enough,” she said, adding, “The reality is that this is a scourge on our city”.

Victoria Police launched Operation Fade in the CBD in late February this year, targeting those involved in graffiti and vandalism, which a police spokesperson said had been a “devastating blow to small businesses who have been doing it tough over the last couple of years to find their properties damaged and being left to cover the cost.”

“In a little over a month, this dedicated group of officers has already arrested 14 people allegedly involved in graffitiing, including four people who were remanded as a result of their offending,” the spokesperson said.

“This should leave the community in no doubt that police take graffiti and other forms of criminal damage seriously and if you do the wrong thing, you will be caught.”

Melbourne street art expert Adrian Doyle said the volume of graffiti the council was contending with was “unwinnable”, and that “they need to go to the source and do youth programs.”

“In the end graffiti will always be there, there’s nothing they can do. All they can do is work with and curb these guys [offenders] and give them an understanding of respect,” he said.

The City of Melbourne’s latest 2022/23 budget includes a “huge investment” of $33.6 million in graffiti removal by expanding it rapid response clean team to “fast-track graffiti removal and doubling our investment in high pressure cleaning.”

“We’re proud to lead the fight against illegal graffiti and tagging, but we can’t do it alone. We need property owners to step up and clean their buildings and assets,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

Police are encouraging the community to report any instances of graffiti to your property to the Police Assistance Line (131 444) or by submitting an online report: •

For more information: police.vic.gov.au

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