Graffiti is words or drawings, which are written, painted, sprayed or scratched on the surface of any property. Graffiti is illegal, spoils both public and private property and can be very costly to remove.
It is a criminal offence carrying large fines given out by a Magistrate, or up to £150 fixed penalty notice issued by a community protection officer or the police.
For the avoidance of doubt, the definition of graffiti does not include graffiti, street art or any other form of art involving graffiti that is either, or both, officially authorised or, undertaken with lawful permission from property owner(s). This includes, but not limited to, the Cheltenham Paint Festival.
There are a wide variety of forms and styles of graffiti, of which the authority recognises six basic categories:
- Juvenile – generally takes the form of “x loves y” type messages or lists of first names. They are usually written with felt-tip or marker pens
- Tags – stylised personal graphic identifiers depicting names or nicknames, which are often large and in bold colours. Tags can be pictorial, drawn free hand or using stencils, and are usually painted with spray cans or drawn with marker pens
- Scratches – marks caused by the deliberate use of a sharp instrument to cut into painted surfaces, wood, plastic, brick etc. However, if these scratches form words, then they should be classified as ‘juvenile’ or ‘tags’ as appropriate
- Ghost – graffiti which has been partially removed or has faded to such an extent that it is has lost its initial visual impact
- Contentious – any graffiti which could be offensive to particular members of the general public. This would include any obscene, racist, political or religious graffiti
- Stencil – any graffiti which has been sprayed through a stencil, unless it is deemed that it forms a ‘tag’
Almost anything can serve as a medium by which to create graffiti including paint, marker pens, chalk, pencils, knives and other sharp instruments.
Offensive graffiti is graffiti that:
- is racial, sexual, politically offensive, insulting to the general community or any wording that is reported by the public as offensive
- is, in the reasonable opinion of the officer, is offensive
- Offensive language
- Language of a politically, racially, religiously insulting or inciting nature
- Hate statements
- Graphically explicit images sexual or violent nature
- Graphically intimidating images or text
- Images that are textually or visually offensive in context
- Libellous or potentially libellous statements
We are responsible for removing graffiti from public buildings, street furniture or monuments. We will also remove graffiti present on privately owned property if the graffiti is deemed to be offensive in nature.
Graffiti sprayed on a commercial property is the responsibility of the business owner who has a duty to remove it. We will remove graffiti from privately owned residential properties if the graffiti is considered to be of an offensive nature. If we receive complaints, we will request it is removed by the property owner or use discretion to remove pending circumstances and ownership.
Other items such as telephone boxes, bus shelters and electricity boxes are the responsibility of the company that has placed them there and can be reported via the below details.
- Telephone box - email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Post box - email email@example.com
- Highway road signs, bollards, street lighting or traffic lights can be reported online to Gloucestershire County Council
Before you make your report, please make sure you have the following information to hand:
- Details of the graffiti, including whether it's offensive or racially motivated
- The location of the graffiti
- Any evidence you may have (a photo or video)
Please note all details received will be treated in the strictest of confidence and not disclosed to the target of your complaint. We may need to contact you for more information.
What happens next?
A neighbourhood officer will investigate your report.
If the graffiti is on council maintained property, this will be passed to our cleansing team for removal.
If the graffiti is on commercial property, we will contact the owner to request its removal. If this is not successful, a community protection notice will be issued requiring the work be carried out to remove the graffiti or then we will carry out the works and reclaim the cost.
Offensive graffiti (i.e. racial, sexual or homophobic, religious or political) will be removed within fourteen days.