While not quite an epidemic, graffiti – specifically tagging – was rife, with over 7400 incidents reported that financial year.
On average, more than 20 unwelcome additions to council and private property appeared each day, resulting in the worst year on record for graffiti vandalism.
By 2013-14, graffiti removal expenditure had plummeted to just $55,000 – a reduction of 85 per cent from its peak – and the total area affected was a more manageable 25,000sq m.
Achieved in tandem with WA Police, the result comes in the wake of a multi-pronged approach to tackling the scourge.
Central to that success was the State Graffiti Taskforce, established in 2008.
The Taskforce formalised its Tough on Graffiti Strategy in 2010 – the same year that harsher penalties for graffiti offenders and legislation banning the sale of graffiti implements to children came into effect.
One of the core pillars of the Tough on Graffiti Strategy is a commitment to rapid removal, a strategy designed to deprive offenders of recognition according to WA Police Graffiti Team project manager Christine Armstrong.
“Across all jurisdictions in Australia rapid removal is reported as one of the most popular and effective graffiti prevention strategies,” she said.
“It is based on research showing that graffiti offenders are often motivated by a desire to have their tags or work viewed by others.
“Removing the graffiti quickly is considered a way of limiting the reward and notoriety for the offender.”
Rapid removal was quickly adopted by the City of Melville, which now cleans up all public facing graffiti on both council and private property within 48 hours – half that time if the graffiti is considered obscene.
The State Graffiti Taskforce also created the Goodbye Graffiti Database, a streamlined and centralised system for reporting graffiti incidents to police that superseded the myriad in-house solutions in use by local governments at the time. The database allows police to link tags to offenders and pursue more meaningful convictions.
“The information received from local governments enables WA Police to assess the occurrence of prolific tags and graffiti hotspots,” Ms Armstrong said.
“Further benefits to local governments include an increased awareness of anti-social activity in the city, targeted community safety education program s and improved record management for the costs associated with graffiti removal.”