How much is being spent on graffiti removal

Amounts of up to $25 million dollars per year have been used as the estimated cost of graffiti removal within Western Australia.  However in reality this figure is likely to be grossly underestimated due to the difficulty in obtaining an accurate cost largely to the nature of graffiti offences, its reporting and removal.

In 2005, the cost of criminal damage Australia wide, which included but was not limited to graffiti vandalism, was estimated to be $1.58 billion annually[1].   This estimate is likely to be a conservative one given that graffiti vandalism, like other forms of criminal damage, is not always reported to police. It also gives no consideration to the social cost of graffiti vandalism; in particular the impact on perceptions of safety and public amenity.  It is evident throughout Western Australia regardless of the social, economic or cultural status of the community that its persistence, spread and visibility have served to heighten the public’s sensitivity to it as a threat against civic order and safety in their community[2]. 

In 2006/07, major stakeholders (i.e. Local Governments, Public Transport Authority, Main Roads, Western Power, Water Corporation, Department of Housing and Works, Department of Education, Repay WA) provided indicative figures of their graffiti vandalism costs that cumulatively approximated $17.18 million.  This amount would have been significantly higher were it to include those costs incurred by the private and business sector.     

The Graffiti Taskforce is exploring the avenues to collate such records to provide a better indication of the graffiti removal costs involved. In addition to the monetary cost of graffiti removal, graffiti vandalism can also cost the community in other significant ways through damage to civic pride, encouraging further criminal activity, devaluing property, intimidating residents and generating fear and anger throughout communities.  

The WA Police Force Graffiti Team commenced an informal review of nine metropolitan local councils’ graffiti costs, which compared graffiti-related expenditure across the 08/09, 09/10 and 10/11 financial years.  The trends reveal a significant reduction across the councils’ removal costs, with qualitative feedback attributing the reduction in costs to the implementation of a variety of strategies including prevention and rapid removal.  

  [1] Rollings K 2008. Counting the costs of crime in Australia: a 2005 update. Research and public policy series no. 91. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. [2]National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing, Western Australia 2009