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Making Your Mark

Alan Lewin, Business Development Director of ServiceMaster Clean, emphasises the importance of acting quickly to remove graffiti and restore damaged property.

Commuters in Kent recently witnessed a graffiti tribute to the late Only Fools and Horses actor, Roger Lloyd-Pack, on the side of a train. While the sentiment may be welcomed by some, graffiti removal can be costly and can cause damage to decorative or delicate surfaces, draining local authority's and other organisations’ resources.

Affected areas may also start to feel run down and appear threatening, creating a poor impression not only of the place but of the people living there. Some graffiti can be very offensive, threatening to groups or individuals or racially abusive. In such cases, it can cause alarm, harassment and distress.

Graffiti refers to any marking illegally made on walls and other surfaces. First observed in Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, it is taken from the Greek word graphien, which means ‘to write’. More recent forms of graffiti emerged from the subways of New York in the 1980s. Since then it has spread across the world, acquiring a culture of its own that includes codes of conduct, values and language.

Is Graffiti A Problem? Approved community graffiti projects can enhance certain environments, communicate important messages and deal with wider social problems, such as those caused by young people hanging around. Research shows that the public is more favourably disposed towards community projects and graffiti art – best known through street artist, Banksy. However, the Environmental Quality Survey of England (LEQSE)


commissioned by Defra in 2001, found that graffiti stencils of the type used by Banksy are found at only 1% of sites.

Graffiti can be seen everywhere – in shopping centre facilities, on the walls and doors of commercial businesses, educational establishments, factories and healthcare organisations – and it is estimated that it costs the UK over £1billion per year to clean up. In a survey undertaken by Mori in 2003, graffiti was the third most important issue affecting local residents’ quality of life (21%). Graffiti can also encourage further anti-social behaviour including flyposting and the dumping of waste.

Act Fast First impressions count in any business. Customers, clients, suppliers and staff expect premises to be kept in an immaculate condition, and an unsightly building could lead to a loss of business or a reduction in staff morale.

When malicious damage, such as graffiti, is allowed to remain on a property and is not promptly removed, it invites more markings, especially if rival groups are ‘tagging’ property to establish territorial claims. This can be followed by further criminal activity, creating an environment that fosters a general fear of crime. Experience has shown that dealing with damaged property quickly is the best way of preventing further malicious damage.

Using a damage management company is the best way to return back to ‘business as usual’.

Specialists can start putting the property back to pre-damaged condition, following not only malicious damage such as graffiti, but also other forms of unexpected building damage such as from flood, water or fire.

ServiceMaster Clean provides a specialist service, Restoration Response™ which guarantees a fast response within a few hours of an emergency to start getting the property back to its pre-damaged condition. Using specialist equipment and products, unwanted graffiti can be removed from all kinds of surfaces, including walls and signage. Common techniques for graffiti removal include painting, sanding, scraping, disinfectanting, chemical graffiti removal, power washing, abrasive blasting and graffiti removal gel. You should always seek expert advice though, as using chemicals or a pressure washer to remove graffiti can damage surfaces further if not used correctly.

Registration to this service is free, so that if an unexpected emergency occurs, help can be quickly provided. Customers registered to the scheme are guaranteed on-site service within two to four hours of an emergency. If the vandalism is severe and you need to contact your insurer, restoration experts will liaise with your insurance company, broker or loss adjuster, and will keep you informed every step of the way.

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