Graffiti is bad for business

Alan Lewin, Business Development Director of ServiceMaster Clean, emphasises the importance of acting quickly to remove graffiti and bring defaced property back to its best

Graffiti can be seen everywhere – in shopping centre facilities, on the walls and doors of commercial businesses, factories and healthcare organisations – and it is estimated that it costs the UK over £1 billion per year to clean up.[1]

The illegal marking of walls and surfaces is an offence under the Criminal Damage Act (1971). Taken from the Greek word “graphien” which means to write, graffiti is created by marker pen, aerosol paint, mechanical or acid etching.

Graffiti is most common in cities, damaging the appearance of buildings and draining commercial resources. Removal can be costly. According to the British Transport Police, it costs the London Underground an estimated £10m per annum to replace all the glass that is etched as well as the £2.5m required to clear up other types of graffiti.[2]

Graffiti can cause damage to decorative or delicate surfaces. Affected areas may also start to feel run down and appear threatening, putting off customers and prospects. Some graffiti can be very offensive, threatening to groups or individuals, or racially abusive.

Local authorities are not responsible for clearing graffiti on private property, which includes business premises but will work with the community to prevent graffiti wherever they can.

Art or crime?

There is public debate over whether graffiti should be considered art or crime. Research shows that people make a distinction between vandalism and community projects or genuine street art, best known through Banksy.

Although the public profess a liking for urban art, it is worth pointing out that actual examples are very rarely encountered by those surveying the state of cleanliness in England. The Environmental Quality Survey of England (LEQSE) commissioned by Defra in 2001, found that graffiti stencils of the type used by Banksy are found at only 1% of sites.

Act fast

First impressions count and an unsightly building could lead to a loss of business or a reduction in staff morale. Eliminating graffiti as soon as it appears makes it easier to remove and reduces the risk of vandals doing it again.

Using a damage management company is the best way to return back to ‘business as usual.’ Specialists can start putting the property back to normal following not only malicious damage such as graffiti, but also other forms of unexpected building damage such as flood, water, or fire.

You should appoint a contractor that is a member of the British Damage Management Association (BDMA). This will show that the provider adheres to professional standards, compatible with loss adjuster and insurer processes. ServiceMaster Clean is a founder member and currently has more BDMA accredited senior technicians than any other company in the UK industry.

ServiceMaster Clean provides a specialist service, Restoration Response™ which guarantees fast response within a few hours of an emergency to start getting the property back to pre-damage condition. Registration is free, so that if an unexpected emergency occurs then help can be quickly provided. Customers registered to the scheme are guaranteed on-site service within 2-4 hours of an emergency.

Methods for removing graffiti safely and effectively

Whether graffiti is on a small or large scale, using the correct products and techniques is vital in its removal and prevention.

Common techniques for graffiti removal include painting, sanding, scraping, disinfectants, chemical graffiti removers, power washing, abrasive blasting and graffiti removal gel. You will also need to consider the actual structure of the area affected and the surface material. You should always seek expert advice as using chemicals or a pressure washer to remove graffiti can damage surfaces further if not used correctly.

Natural deterrents such as landscaping with shrubs or thorny plants can help to restrict vandal access, as can fencing and controlled entrances and exits. Limit access to roofs by moving bins away from walls and covering drainpipes to prevent vandals from scaling them. Consider using uneven wall surfaces like pebble dashing or flint work and install security lighting and CCTV cameras.

ServiceMaster Clean has produced a free guide to restoring a damaged property, which is available to download at www.servicemasterofficecleaning.co.uk/downloads/how-to

Sign up to Restoration Response, the 24/7 Rapid Response Service – free to register

For more information, please visit www.restorationresponse.co.uk or call 0845 762 6828


[1] www.charnwood.gov.uk

[2] ‘Good Graffiti, Bad Graffiti’, ENCAMS Research Report, September 2008

Published in Tomorrow’s FM – February  2013  Bad for Business