Cleaners in London say the city has a graffiti problem in and out of properties

Professional graffiti cleaners in London say business is booming, with nasty scribbles and symbols keeping those who work to erase the damage busy.

“It seems to go in waves,” said Brent Murdoch, the general manager of Goodbye Graffiti.

“One of the more unique scenarios that we’ve been getting into is probably more of a play of drug use, like the addiction side of things and mental health within the city that has changed graffiti,” he said. Creative bubble letters are out, and damage is in, he added.

Last month, parents reported seeing a slew of offensive graffiti on the playground and walls at Aberdeen Public School. (Submitted by Emily Pepping)

The increase also comes from graffiti being easier to do with an ink or permanent marker, Murdoch said.

Things have gotten so bad, Goodbye Graffiti had to start a program with London’s property managers and businesses to add graffiti cleanup into yearly expenses.

This month, residents say they’ve seen vandalism spike in neighborhoods like Blackfriars. There’s been graffiti drawn along Blackfriars Bridge, which was recently restored, and garbage scattered across streets and damage to city property.

In May, graffiti with anti-Semitic symbols and other offensive messages were found on playground equipment at Stephens Farm Park in North London.

“We’re trying to add niceties in a city that you want to have and we’re struggling with that,” said Ward 13 Coun. John Fyfe-Millar. It’s harder to keep up with maintenance of city property when it’s constantly being sprayed, he said.

“Part of the challenge that we’re having is that when this vandalism takes place, people are just asked to register it on the system and report it and put it through their insurance,” Fyfe-Millar said.

Amer Khuzam, managing director for cleaning company Vortex Service, has also noticed more paint-based graffiti sprayed inside properties after break-ins.

“Even sometimes we cannot clean them because they are on the dry wall,” he said, adding it’s not easy to scrub oil-based sprays or paint off dry wall. He hires painters to redo them instead.

“What made me surprised was that it was inside the bedrooms. I understand if it was outdoors but I got to notice of a couple of houses with it,” Khuzam said.

Amer Khuzam, managing director of Vortex Services in London, Ont., says he’s surprised to see graffiti inside properties when cleaning up after break-ins (Clement Goh/CBC News)

Sexual inuendo and pictures of body parts and racial slurs aren’t new, but it’s a growing concern, he said.

“People are not feeling safe and secure.”

To prevent repeated graffiti, Murdoch said he likes to tell businesses and property managers to fight art with art.

“If you put up a mural, I feel like it raises the social value of places like stores,” he said, adding people are more likely to respect what’s already there.

Without murals, the next best thing to do is clean graffiti as soon as possible before it grows, Murdoch said.

“If it stays, kids are going to want to add to it. The graffiti artists are going to want to add to it. So that (immediately cleaning) would be the easiest.”

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