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Combatting Illegal Graffiti: How Municipalities in Baden-Württemberg Are Taking Action

As of: March 31, 2024 9:56 a.m

Illegal graffiti is a problem in many cities in Baden-Württemberg. As a survey shows, municipalities deal with the sprayer scene differently.

Well-crafted graffiti and street art can sometimes make inner cities more attractive. But illegal graffiti with spray cans or permanent markers is often a nuisance for municipalities in Baden-Württemberg.

To combat the sprayer scene in Tübingen Mayor Boris Palmer (independent) recently promised a reward of up to 5,000 euros for promising information in convicting perpetrators. According to a Facebook post from Palmer, half a dozen sprayers are expected to end up in court in the next few months. “We’re remedying the situation,” he writes and continues: “@Sprayer caught by passers-by – the successes are piling up.”

Two weeks ago, three sprayers were caught red-handed – and then a fourth. All were significantly older than 20 years old. “It is no longer a question of the sins of youth,” writes Palmer. “There is an aggressive scene here of grown men who should know better. And we are now putting a stop to them.”

Is graffiti also causing problems for other communities? A survey in selected cities provides information about this.

Ulm and Pforzheim: significant increase

The number of illegally applied graffiti is increasing in Ulm. “In general, the trend is increasing, but an upward ‘outlier’ was the year 2022, when the number of graffiti rose sharply, but fell again in 2023 – but remained at a high level,” said a city spokeswoman. After Hamas’ attack on Israel in October, the “Free Palestine” lettering appeared several times in the city, otherwise slogans are the exception. Graffiti would be removed regularly and as quickly as possible; at the same time, defined areas would be offered for sprayers. Among other things, there are eleven walls for sprayers outside at the Ulm Roxy, a socio-cultural center. In 2021, the removal of illegal graffiti cost 2,619 euros, in 2022 a total of 18,991 euros and in 2023 a total of 8,811 euros. The perpetrators are mostly unknown.

Pforzheim also reports an increase in paint graffiti in the city. Most of the time these are public structures and buildings as well as inventory in public spaces. “We have a graffiti reporting center that takes care of the contamination and removes it. The costs vary depending on the effort and persistence of the paint,” says a city spokesman. The city offers private owners the opportunity to support the removal – through the painters’ guild or through the city itself.

Esslingen: also religiously motivated graffiti

The impression there is also that attacks with spray paint, permanent markers and stickers are increasing in Esslingen. However, according to a city spokesman, there is no documentation with exact figures. The “works of art” can be found on buildings, traffic signs, underpasses and bridges. “There are both politically and religiously motivated graffiti.” The frequency often depends on current events, for example upcoming elections. There is no documentation with exact figures here either. “The professional removal of listed sandstone walls is more complex and expensive than painting over graffiti in underpasses,” the spokesman continued. The perpetrators are usually not known. However, it can be assumed that they will be active more frequently.

Offenburg: “Don’t dismiss graffiti as graffiti across the board”

The city of Offenburg (Ortenaukreis) points out that graffiti cannot be dismissed as “graffiti”. “That doesn’t do justice to the topic,” says a spokesman. When it comes to attacks using spray paint, permanent markers and stickers, it is difficult to estimate developments in recent years. It depends largely on viewing behavior. Often graffiti is not reported. The city has taken various measures against graffiti. “The anti-graffiti project was introduced as part of municipal crime prevention. The city subsidized the removal of graffiti on private buildings,” says the city spokesman. The aim was to quickly remove graffiti in order to counteract the “broken windows effect” and not to offer perpetrators any satisfaction through the visibility of their graffiti.

For several years there have been so-called legal graffiti areas throughout the city. Anyone can spray graffiti on these. At the annual German-French hip-hop festival Double Trouble Jam, graffiti artists can legally try their hand at graffiti. “This year it will take place on July 13th,” says the city spokesman. On various occasions, the culture department organizes so-called murals in which unused wall areas are designed. In Offenburg there are several underpasses that were – officially approved – designed by sprayers. Stefan Strumbel, the most prominent internationally known Offenburg artist, began his career as an “illegal” sprayer. “Another well-known Offenburg graffiti artist is Markus Schwendemann. He has designed various facades, including in the Offenburg Technology Park.”

Mannheim: Prevention association supports legal spraying

In Mannheim, no statistics are kept on the number of graffiti. It would be difficult to quantify the costs of removal. “These are works that are carried out as part of ongoing operations. If racist or anti-Semitic slogans are used, attempts will be made immediately to remove them,” says a city spokesman. For example, the prevention association SiMA eV and the Eastern City Center Citizens and Business Association support legal graffiti on power boxes or in underpasses.

There is no known increase in graffiti incidents in Sigmaringen. “Experience shows that such damage to property occurs in cycles, depending on the activity of the graffiti ‘artists’,” says a city spokesman. “There are certain places that seem to be predestined to be graffitied, such as underpasses, bridges, power boxes or street lamps. With this knowledge, we apply a kind of graffiti protective layer to such places directly during construction, if possible, thanks to which graffiti can be prevented easier to remove.”

Stuttgart: Graffiti made from hydrofluoric acid appeared

According to the police, there have been several incidents in Stuttgart in the past few months Graffiti made from hydrofluoric acid appeared in the city center. Authorities warn against exposure to hydrofluoric acid, also called hydrofluoric acid. This is a colorless, strongly pungent-smelling liquid. It can etch onto surfaces. The “Hall of Fames” also created opportunities for legal spraying in Stuttgart, according to a city spokesman. “There are currently three ‘Hall of Fames’ in the city area, in Bad-Cannstatt and twice in Vaihingen. In addition, graffiti is not generally viewed as damage to property or graffiti. Large areas throughout the city are regularly released for artists and groups or similar to attach motifs there – after consultation.”

Karlsruhe: Falcon “Schmierfink”

According to a spokesman, the special “Schmierfink” commission was set up in Karlsruhe in 2018. The goal was to keep the city center as free as possible from paint graffiti and illegal stickers. The project was initially limited to two years, but is said to be continuing. “The employees independently remove illegal graffiti and ‘smearings’ of all kinds, as well as the numerous stickers in the city area,” says the spokesman. The expenditure has remained at a similar level in recent years.

Broadcast on Sun, March 31, 2024 10:00 a.m., DASDING News

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2024-03-31 18:25:24
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