Graffiti Removal

Graffiti is one of the fastest growing forms of art nationwide and globally. Graffiti, once thought to be solely criminal activity, now enjoys a strong following in the art world. Nevertheless, graffiti, also called tagging, is a form of vandalism when it defaces property that is not your own. While many forms and uses of graffiti constitute true art, graffiti done without consent is a crime in South Africa.

The key element that makes many instances of graffiti illegal is lack of consent from the property owner. A property owner could permit a graffiti artist to use his or her property to create a piece of art, however in many cases the property owner does not provide consent. Graffiti is a form of vandalism that occurs when someone intentionally defaces, destroys or otherwise damages another’s property.

Graffiti can take the form of spray painted slogans, stickers applied, drawing or marking surfaces or engraving into a piece of property. While many forms of graffiti may be artistically meaningful, it does not take away from the fact that graffiti defaces another’s property without consent. Graffiti can be done on a building, temporary structure, fence or any piece of real or personal property. It’s also illegal to graffiti on public transport or public transport areas such as bus stops or train stations.

In South Africa, defacing property is a crime and as such, an offender could be faced with fines as well as arrest and jail time should they get caught. However the seriousness and consequences of being caught does not stop graffiti from increasing. It is therefore important to adopt a zero tolerance attitude toward graffiti and remove it as soon as it appears. Not doing so communicates acceptance of these acts of vandalism by the community, which could attract more graffiti rather quickly and may even encourage the incidence of crime and grime which escalates the problem even further.

The punishments for graffiti vandalism vary based on the value of the damage it causes and the economic costs of a vandalism charge can be significant. Also, if you are in possession of certain instruments or tools, and had intent to use them for acts of vandalism, when you are caught vandalizing, you could face additional criminal charges for malicious mischief. Such tools could include a sharp edged object used to engrave pieces of property, an aerosol paint can or a paint marker. This offense is charged as a misdemeanour and may come with an order for community service.

On top of these penalties, a court may also order a defendant to clean or repair the property they defaced. You can also be ordered to clean up other graffiti in a specific area for a period of time, or you could be given community service. Certain jurisdictions may also assign additional clean up fees. Graffiti is viewed seriously in South Africa, meaning those caught committing acts of vandalism will be prosecuted aggressively and the penalty for helping or encouraging someone else to do graffiti can be the same as the penalty for actually doing it yourself.

Graffiti is viewed as an eyesore by many eThekwini residents and property owners and it has been said to cause property values to decline. Similarly, the UIP Company  views graffiti in a serious light and has long since introduced its own graffiti clean-up team that’s dedicated solely to the removal and clean-up of all forms of graffiti within its precincts on a daily basis.