Merton says ‘Don’t carry the can.’

Merton Council’s latest message to residents is ‘Don’t carry the can.’

In a renewed push to dissuade so-called taggers from spraying graffiti on public property, the council is launching a campaign to alert people to the very serious consequences of committing this environmental crime.

Council community engagement officers along with the Dangerous Theatre Group will be going into schools throughout the rest of this year and into next to talk to youngsters about the risk of prosecution. They will also be armed with “Don’t carry the can” posters showing items of value including an iPod, iPhone and Wii totally destroyed by graffiti. The main question they will be asking is, ‘How would you like it if someone did this to your property?’

The fourth poster in the series shows a passport with the message: ‘Ever dreamed of going abroad for some fun and life changing experiences? A criminal record for graffiti offences means you can say good-bye to any dream you may have of going to the US, Canada or Australia”.

The posters will be put up all around Merton to both discourage graffiti and to inform the public about the action they should take if they see someone committing the crime.

CCTV cameras around the borough help catch people in the act of spaying graffiti – providing evidence to help the Metropolitan Police or British Transport Police make a successful prosecution. Merton has two officers who co-ordinate the borough’s fight against this type of crime. Anyone caught spraying graffiti is liable for a prison sentence or a hefty fine which could also affect their future job prospects.

Merton Council works closely with the police to identify culprits, and has been involved in tackling 77 graffiti related offences which have led to 18 arrests over the past year, some resulting in 18 months detention in a young offenders’ institution and a five-year anti-social behaviour order. Taggers should beware as the council will not hesitate to publicise any tag names in an effort to identify the culprits.

Merton Council cabinet member for environment and leisure services Councillor David Simpson said: ‘We spend a quarter of a million pounds a year on removing graffiti. That is a huge amount for the taxpayer to fork out for the mindless and inexcusable behaviour of a minority of people intent on inflicting their criminal damage on the majority of law-abiding residents. We are not prepared to stand for it.

‘We know that areas vandalised with graffiti are more prone to littering and vandalism and increase people’s general fear of crime. We live in a pleasant and attractive borough that is one of the safest in London, and we will not let the behaviour of a few ruin it for the rest of us. I hope that the messages on our poster campaign will press home just how serious an offence spraying graffiti is.’