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Drawing out graffiti talent

PUBLISHED: 17:47 28 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:35 24 August 2010

Clean-up: Darren Devanney PCSO and Simon Egbo from Brent Council

Clean-up: Darren Devanney PCSO and Simon Egbo from Brent Council

by Sarah Brubeck Graffiti artists are being caught and offered training in graphic design instead of the borough simply cleaning up after them. In the last 18 months, Brent Council apprehended 33 people for graffiti work. Before January 2

by Sarah Brubeck

Graffiti artists are being caught and offered training in graphic design instead of the borough simply cleaning up after them.

In the last 18 months, Brent Council apprehended 33 people for graffiti work.

Before January 2008, the council had found just one person - by accident.

Each year, Brent Council spends about £431,000 on graffiti removal.

Ifran Malik, assistant director of environment and culture, said: "We will never stop it, but we can work on family issues.

"We can get people in activities in and outside school to keep them busy.

"We could spend a lot of money and get rid of all of it, but we can't sustain it.

"We don't want to waste money during a recession."

As a part of the council's proactive approach, it has begun creating murals and growing plants on the walls to discourage graffiti work across Brent.

Simon Egbor, anti-social behaviour case officer, said: "When we talk to parents, they say it's just graffiti, but then we show them how much it costs us."

Once the artists are caught, the council tries to put them in alternative programs like graphic design so they can put their talents to work and possibly make a career out of their skill.

Kiran Vagarwal, anti-social behaviour team manager said: "If we can get people on board with us, then we can reassure them that (taggers) will not necessarily get in trouble.

"Schools have tagging on books and we are encouraging them to tell us.

"We don't want the wrong people getting in trouble."

However, for higher level taggers who have also been involved in criminal activity, they can be fined, arrested and taken to court.

Though the council has tried to cut crime down in Brent for years, they discovered the look of the town affects how safe residents feel.

Ms Vagarwal said: "We're trying to listen to the residents because you can't just cut down crime.

"The environment makes people feel unsafe as well. They don't feel it's public art in Brent."

The council is beginning to encourage residents to not just report graffiti that needs cleaning, but also encourage investigation of who is spraying the graffiti.

Mr Egbor said: "I'm in a business where I get calls everyday where people say my property has been tagged and I'm trying to sell my building.


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