Rapid Removal

Managing Graffiti Vandalism through Rapid Removal

The prevalent nature of graffiti vandalism has made it a complicated and difficult problem to fully combat. However, rapid removal is one such strategy which is being implemented to address this.

The term ‘rapid removal’ refers to the process in which graffiti is removed within a relatively short period of time, generally 48 hours, following detection[1].

The effectiveness of this initiative is based around the premise that rapid removal can counteract motivation for graffiti vandalism by limiting exposure time of the work and consequently, recognition from peers[2].  The Western Australian (WA) State Government’s ‘Tough on Graffiti Strategy’ supports the rapid removal approach, but recommends that it is carried out in combination with other prevention activities such as community awareness, intelligence-led policing, appropriate landscape design, offender diversion, and education.
The development of the ‘broken windows theory’ by Wilson and Kelling[3], proposed that the presence of graffiti may impact on the level of crime. They identified that a disorderly environment sends a message that no one is in charge, thus weakening community controls and inviting criminal behaviour. Graffiti that is not removed may therefore attract more graffiti[4].  Rapid removal may be seen as a means to reduce further graffiti incidences and prevent escalation into more serious crime by maintaining and restoring the community environment.
There is ample evidence that employing the rapid removal strategy can serve as a successful prevention and reduction method for graffiti vandalism. The WA Police Graffiti Team, previously under the Office of Crime Prevention, conducted a study aimed at testing a series of graffiti prevention strategies, including rapid removal, to reduce vandalism at a property in the Perth CBD. For more information please click on the Hotspot Intervention Pilot Project . In addition, national and international studies have reported that implementing the rapid removal approach has resulted in positive outcomes. The low implementation costs and ease of removing newly applied graffiti materials contributes to the success of this approach[5] [6] .  Please see below for links to these studies.
Evidence has shown that graffiti vandalism may not be fully prevented using the rapid removal approach. Some researchers argue that graffiti vandals may continue to write on newly cleaned walls[7], graffiti activity may increase in surrounding areas after rapid removal has been employed[3], and that window etching may take the place of markers and paint [8].  Furthermore, the ease of sharing graffiti electronically may compromise the effect of decreasing exposure time of the work [8] [9].  It is therefore encouraged that rapid removal is run concurrently with other anti-graffiti strategies in response to graffiti vandalism[4] [10] [11], rather than used in isolation. Combined anti-graffiti strategies may result in greater success for reducing and preventing graffiti vandalism in the future. These may include the application of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), lighting, educational programs, partnerships, offender data bases, increased reporting, information workshops and urban art projects.
To support the research findings around the effectiveness of rapid removal, the State Government has introduced graffiti vandalism removal standards for public sector bodies by way of a Premier's Circular.  The Premier's Circular Graffiti 2011/03  implements the State Government’s policy on prompt removal of graffiti vandalism by encouraging all public sector bodies to adopt a 48-hour graffiti vandalism removal standard for their assets (from the time of reporting), with immediate removal if the graffiti is racist or obscene.


1. Graffiti Vandalism: Review of Graffiti Reduction Demonstration Projects 2007-08, (2009). Policy and Analysis, Crime Prevention Division, NSW Department of Justice Attorney General. Retrieved 2010-07-08 from http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/samuels_env_crim.pdf

2. Graffiti Management Strategy for the Australian Capital Territory. (2004). Prepared by Canberra Urban Parks and Places (CUPP) Policy and Planning Unit .  Retrieved 2010-07-08 from  http://www.tams.act.gov.au/city-services/public_areas/graffiti

3. Wilson, James. Q., & Kelling, George. L. "BROKEN WINDOWS: The police and neighborhood safety" (PDF). http://www.manhattan-institute.org/pdf/_atlantic_monthly-broken_windows.pdf. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 

4. White, K. (2003), Graffiti-Looking beyond the symptoms, Paper presented at the Graffiti and Disorder Conference convened by the Australian Institute of Criminology in conjunction with the Australian Local Government Association and held in Brisbane. Retrieved 2010-09-07 from http://www.aic.gov.au/media_library/conferences/2003-graffiti/white.pdf

5. Callinan, R. (2002), ‘Dealing with graffiti in New South Wales’, Briefing paper. Retrieved 2010-07-09 from http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/0/9C425494BD3AE384CA256ECF0007BBDD/$File/08-02.pdf

6. The Erie Graffiti Strategic Initiative Report: A Strategic Approach to the Reduction and Elimination of Graffiti in Erie, Pennsylvania (2008). Mercyhurst College Erie Graffiti Strategic Analysis Team. Retrieved 2010-07-08.  http://eriegraffiti.wikispaces.com/file/view/Erie%20Graffiti%20Strategic%20Report%20Mercyhurst%20College%20PDF.pdf

7.  Halsey, M. & Young A. (2002), Graffiti culture research project, final report, Prepared for KESAB, Adelaide. Retrieved 2010-07-15 from https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/0/9C425494BD3AE384CA256ECF0007BBDD/$File/08-02.pdf

8. Stafford, J. & Pettersson, G. (2003), Vandalism, graffiti and environmental nuisance – literature review, report for the UK Department of Transport. Retrieved 2010-07-16 from  http://kb.keepbritaintidy.org/criminaldamage/publications/litreview.pdf

9. Graffiti vandalism on and around public transport. Retrieved 2010-07-22 from http://kb.keepbritaintidy.org/criminaldamage/publications/litreview.pdf

10. Walkom. J, & Walkom. K., (2009). Integrated Graffiti Management for Public Asset Managers. Retrieved 2010-07-23 from http://www.ipwea.org.au/Content/NavigationMenu/Upload_content/ConferencePapersstoragearea/WalkomJohn.pdf.

11. Stop graffiti vandalism: graffiti management model. Retrieved 2010-07-22 from www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/Lawlink/cpd/ll_graffiti.nsf/vwFiles/Graffitimgmt.doc/$file/Graffitimgmt.doc