Graffiti: Writings on the Wall

Graffiti: Writings on the Wall

Professional tips for graffiti prevention, business recovery & graffiti removal
Graffiti…Is it art, crime or vandalism that creates a bad image for your properties? Whether it’s concrete, brick, stone, pavement, glass, wood, signage, aluminum siding, street signs, bus shelters, utility boxes or poles, in this day and age almost any surface can be vandalized by graffiti.You’ve probably seen graffiti vandalism somewhere in your community or your property itself has been defaced. Graffiti is the unauthorized colors, lettering and images drawn or scratched on public surfaces.

Graffiti vandalism can significantly impact a community by negatively affecting business growth, tourism and property values. It can lead to reduced retail sales, heightened citizen fear and the resulting prevention and clean-up methods can drain tax dollars. Without gaining early control of this delinquency, graffiti can attract other forms of criminal activity.

GRAFFITI PREVENTION
As a facility manager, you can take preventative measures to make it more difficult for vandals to deface your properties’ exterior assets. Follow these tips to ensure the proper preventative steps are taken to prevent graffiti vandalism on your facilities.

Ensure your facilities’ exteriors are clean, neat and well-maintained.
Curb appeal attracts customers to your business by providing an inviting, aesthetically-appealing atmosphere that makes customers and employees feel secure. A well-maintained facility communicates a feeling of care and reflects the level of service and value customers can expect to receive within your establishment. In addition to benefiting business growth and traffic, curb appeal also serves as a deterrent to vandals. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, an exterior appearance with littered parking lots, graffiti, damaged fences, overgrown landscaping and poor lighting all convey a message of neglect and can attract vandals. Additionally, a poorly manicured landscape can provide hiding places, block camera views and potentially lead to increased crime.

Restrict Access.

  • Incorporate shrubs, thorny plants and clinging vegetation like vines to restrict vandal access and protect walls and other large flat surfaces. Uneven surfaces will serve as deterrents because they make the graffiti less visible.
  • Add or improve lighting, such as motion-activated lights and “spot lights,” around the building to illuminate obscured areas and promote natural surveillance.
  • Use fences, controlled entrance and exits, rails and other barriers that deters through traffic.
  • Control access to roofs by moving commercial trash bins away from walls and covering drainage systems to prevent vandals from climbing them.

Boost security.
Make sure your property has good security measures in place to protect all areas of your property and prevent access for graffiti vandals.

  • Install security cameras.
  • Organize a “Business Watch” surveillance program with nearby merchants.
  • Consider employing security personnel to monitor property.
  • Employ graffiti resistant materials or coatings on chronically hit areas.

Proper paint selection and application.
Your Exterior Services Management® (ESM) provider will assist you with selecting the most appropriate paint and protective covering for your exteriors. Keep in mind, darker, muted colors such as grays, browns and brick-red are less attractive to graffiti vandals because graffiti will not stand out on these hues. If possible, it’s best to avoid painting surfaces black or white. Discuss the application of a protective coating with your service provider. Your provider can recommend the most appropriate coating to meet your property’s needs and budget. A clear-coat finish will protect both painted and unpainted surfaces, providing a barrier between your facilities’ exterior surfaces and graffiti. Protective film can be used on windows.

Perform rapid and continuous removal of graffiti.
This is the best way for businesses to protect the image of their establishment and neighborhood, preserve customers’ sense of security and discourage graffiti vandals. Various studies have shown that removal of graffiti within one to two days results in a nearly zero rate of recurrence. Quick removal not only reduces the likelihood of reoccurrence, but also eliminates the gratification vandals receive and makes it easier to remove. The longer the surface material is affected, the more difficult it is to remove. Additionally, if graffiti is not removed within a reasonable amount of time businesses may be subject to fines in accord with local graffiti ordinances.

Support your community.
Support your community’s efforts to reduce vandalism because the neighborhood’s atmosphere can impact your business, even if your facility hasn’t been vandalized.

BUSINESS RECOVERY
If your facility has been defaced by graffiti, you should:

  • Report graffiti vandalism to the police using a non-emergency number. Make sure police complete an incident report, a common requirement of insurance companies.
  • Work with local authorities to determine if the graffiti is being done by taggers or gangs. Check with law enforcement about safety concerns when removing gang graffiti.
  • Photograph the graffiti before it’s removed to assist law enforcement in their investigation and support your insurance claims.
  • Be aware of a local “graffiti ordinance,” which usually dictates how quickly graffiti must be removed and who is responsible for removal. Most often, private businesses are responsible for removal. Municipal governments often have removal and restoration guidelines for graffiti cleanup.
  • Contact your professional ESM provider immediately to remove graffiti promptly and completely. An experienced contractor will advise you of the most appropriate removal and prevention methods depending on the severity, vandalized surface, location, costs, access and local restrictions. Removal methods may include painting, chemical removal and pressure washing.

GRAFFITI REMOVAL
A professional ESM company will be familiar with various removal methods that are most appropriate for your property’s unique characteristics and have access to industrial strength anti-graffiti products, which require professional handling and are not sold in your local improvement, hardware or paint stores. It’s also important to employ the services of a qualified service provider because a professional company will be familiar with environmental concerns regarding the proper product disposal and clean-up methods that are in accordance with government regulations. Following these guidelines can ensure your exterior assets and the environment are protected.

When preparing to remove the graffiti, an experienced service provider will analyze the situation using these steps to ensure the proper methods are implemented to successfully remove the graffiti, protect the surfaces from future vandalism, reduce the costs associated with future graffiti removal and restore your exteriors to their former splendor.

1. Identification of the facility’s exterior surface materials and the substance requiring removal.
Each surface material and substance reacts differently when combined, so all materials must be accurately identified for successful, proper removal. Spray paint is most frequently used, but an abundance of substances are available to deface property, including: permanent markers, adhesives (stickers), shoe polish, lip stick, stencils and etching products.

2. Selection of the most appropriate removal method.
Proper product selection is critical to successfully removing graffiti and restoring the damaged surface. The three most common removal methods include:

  • Painting: Painting out graffiti is a common, relatively low-cost removal method that can be used on all painted surfaces. A professional service provider will match the original surface color and select a durable, quality paint product. To avoid a patchwork appearance, it may be necessary to paint the entire surface or to breakpoints on the surface because the paint will never match perfectly on the exterior after even a few months. Prior to painting the surface, a professional company will ensure appropriate surface preparation measures are completed. The surface must be dry, checked for surface imperfections such as cracks, rust or water damage, and may require a primer coat be applied. A stain killing primer will be necessary 90% of the time to block out the many different kinds of bases that are found in spray paint canisters, such as: oil, lacquer, alcohol and many others that a latex paint will not cover.
  • Chemical Removers: When using chemical removers as a component of the graffiti removal process, it’s important that all procedures are handled by experienced service providers. If handled improperly, chemical removers can potentially be harmful to workers, the environment and your exterior assets. These products are available in various strengths and if a remover is improperly matched with the identified surface material and substance requiring removal, aesthetically unappealing results may appear.
  • Pressure Washing: Pressure washing is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to maintain and restore your facilities’ exterior assets, and protect those assets from the harsh effects of environmental and man-made elements. Graffiti can be removed with a pressure washer and chemicals if the surface is in good condition (i.e. no significant surface cracks, loose paint, etc.). While pressure washing is effective, it can wear down the surface being treated. Pressure washing can be used in conjunction with other methods to either remove old paint to prepare the surface for a fresh coat or rinse the surface after chemical application.

3. Application of a protective coating.
There are two types of protective coatings, sacrificial and non-sacrificial or permanent. Sacrificial coatings are recommended for delicate surfaces and prevent graffiti from penetrating surfaces, but must be reapplied after graffiti removal. Non-sacrificial or permanent anti-graffiti coatings are unaffected by the graffiti removal process and remain on the surface.

Surface TypeMethod for Removal of Substance Materials (Spray Paint, Permanent Markers, Shoe Polish, Lip Stick, Adhesives, Stencils, Etching Products, etc.)
Masonry (brick, marble, stone, tile, granite, and concrete)Pressure washing; sand or soda blasting (may create a shadow); chemical solvent and rinse with water; prime and paint
PavementChemical remover, pressure washing, soda blasting
Aluminum Siding, FiberglassChemical remover (sparingly); water rinse
GlassRazor blade to scrape off and/or chemical remover; replace glass if permanently damaged due to etching
Historic Masonry or Other Valuable StructuresSeek professional assistance and consult local government regarding historic masonry
Metalchemical remover and rinse; pressure washing; prime and paint
Street SignsChemical remover (be sure the reflective coating is not damaged or removed)
Stuccochemical remover and rinse with low pressure washing; prime and paint
Utility BoxesChemical remover
Vinyl SidingChemical remover (sparingly); prime and paint
WoodLow level pressure washing; sanding; prime and paint

READY TO BRING IN THE PROFESSIONALS?
Consider employing the services of a national ESM company who can streamline your operations and eliminate your exterior concerns, allowing you to focus on interior operations and your businesses bottom line. These providers are experienced in managing all facets of exterior facility maintenance, can streamline your regular facility maintenance operations, and rapidly respond to and resolve crisis situations associated with vandalism of your exterior assets.