Who are the most likely offenders of graffiti

Preliminary graffiti research data from WA Police Force indicates the main offending age is between 12 to 25 years old from all socio-economic environments. The largest percentage of offenders are from mid to high-level income families with a median age of 15. This is supported by both national and international research.

This data has also highlighted a significant number of graffiti offenders have committed other more serious crimes. These crimes include armed robbery, grievous bodily harm and drug related offences.  A significant number of graffiti offenders in WA have also been charged with arson, animal cruelty and serious sex offences. The offence of graffiti is not necessarily committed in isolation but is part of an offending trajectory. 

In Western Australia, Police cautioning and arrest data covering the 5 year period from 2005 to 2009 indicates that 46% of graffiti damage and related offences were committed by males aged 14 to 16 years.  It should be noted that the number of juvenile graffiti offenders (10 to 17 year olds) processed by Western Australian Police Force in 2009 represented only 0.4 % of the State’s entire juvenile population in that year[1]. 

Of the 992 individuals processed by Police for graffiti damage offences during 2009, 76% (758 individuals) were low level offenders having only come to police attention for one offence during the year.  Those who were processed by Police for more than five offences represented only 6% (59) of all individuals coming to police attention during 2009.  Further analysis of the 2009 WA Police data suggests that the most prolific offenders were juvenile males aged 14 to 16 years with one 15 year old male processed for 168 offences during that year.

Cautioning is regarded as the most effective way of dealing with the majority of juvenile first time offenders[2].  Of the 3,187 juveniles coming to the attention of police during the five year period 2005-2009 for graffiti damage incidents 80% (2,535) were recorded as being involved in only one incident.  Of those 2,535 juveniles, 65% were issued with a caution, 21% a court direction and 13% referred for management by a Juvenile Justice Team[3].  (NB These statistics are indicators only as they reflect just those juveniles that have been processed by Police for a graffiti damage offence while a significant number go undetected.)

Footnotes [1] Australian Bureau of Statistics Catologue 3201, 2009 [2] Dennison, Stewart & Hurren 2006. Police cautioning in Queensland : the impact on juvenile offending pathways.  Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 306. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. [3] WA Police Briefcase recording system May 2010.

Australian Institute of Criminology research* that was commissioned by the State Rail Authority of New South Wales on graffiti established the following: 
  • Sydney graffiti vandals are mainly young adolescents and include both females and males, although males predominate.
  • Graffiti vandals come from a wide range of social groups and areas.
  • Many graffiti vandals are self-organised into groups of ‘gangs’ and travel widely.
  • While some graffiti vandals engage in other vandalism, most confine their activities to illegal drawings and figures (such as tagging).
  • Vandals are typically males, aged between 13 and 17, and generally originate from poorer geographical areas.
 Full research findings are available from the Australian Institute of Criminology.
*Australian Institute of Criminology (1987) Trends and Issues No. 6 – Research Brief: Graffiti and vandalism on public transport.