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Graffiti in Sheffield 'getting worse' - here's how you can play your part in tackling scourge

The Star's old offices on York Street in Sheffield city centre have not been spared
The Star's old offices on York Street in Sheffield city centre have not been spared
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Businesses and homeowners have been urged to join the war on graffiti taggers in Sheffield, following a spike in spray can vandalism.

The scourge of unsightly tags scrawled across walls, shopfronts and other surfaces around Sheffield - especially in the city centre - has noticeably increased in recent months.

Richard Eyre, head of city centre management, CCTV, markets and events at Sheffield Council

Richard Eyre, head of city centre management, CCTV, markets and events at Sheffield Council

Richard Eyre, head of city centre management, CCTV, markets and events at Sheffield Council, said: "I do think graffiti tagging has increased significantly but it's no different to five or six years ago when it peaked and then dropped off again," he said.

READ MORE: Spray can ban demanded to tackle graffiti blighting Sheffield
"It's getting worse but it's also increasing in other cities like Manchester and Birmingham, which have a worse problem.

"We don't want Sheffield to become like that, so it's critical we nip it in the bud as soon as possible."

Two graffiti taggers were fined and a third was prosecuted after being caught in the act by the council's team of city centre ambassadors last year, said Mr Eyre.

READ MORE: Sheffield's most graffiti-blighted neighbourhoods revealed
The council aims to clear graffiti tags within its so-called 'platinum' sites like the Peace Gardens within 24 hours, and to cover up any offensive vandalism as soon as possible.

Sheffield BID, which receives funding from city centre businesses, recently embarked on a 'spring clean', during which graffiti equivalent to the size of two tennis courts has been scrubbed off walls, windows and shutters.

But despite the city centre being watched over by some 550 CCTV cameras, Mr Eyre says graffiti taggers are notoriously hard to catch, given they are often gone within seconds and deliberately cover their faces to avoid being identified.

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The best way to curb the proliferation of graffiti tags, he argues, is to quickly remove or cover up the offenders' handiwork so they do not get the satisfaction of seeing it emblazoned around the city.

If it is left up, he says tagging is likely to 'spill over' onto surrounding walls and it can lead to a rise in other crimes and antisocial behaviour.

He is also keen to encourage taggers, who he says tend to be aged between around 14 and 18, to divert their efforts to brightening up the city with more of the street art for which it is already famous.

He described last year's street art festival as a 'big success' and he hopes demonstrations by established street artists at this year's Tramlines festival will spur more young people to have a go, though he reminded people they must always secure permission from property owners beforehand.

"Everyone can play a part in helping prevent graffiti tagging around the city," said Mr Eyre.

"If you know somebody who's responsible you should call police on 101, and if you believe your son or daughter's involved you should challenge them and encourage them to use their talents for street art rather than tagging.

"Businesses and homeowners can do their bit by getting it cleaned off as soon as possible."

Mr Eyre says dedicated graffiti walls which people are free to decorate as they wish tend to fill up quickly, with tags then spreading onto neighbouring areas where they are not wanted.

There are areas where tagging is tolerated, however, like the skate park at Devonshire Green.

As for raising the age limit for buying aerosol paint cans from 16 to 18, he believes this would have little impact on taggers and could discourage budding street artists.

He said there is a place for voluntary graffiti cleaners wishing to clean up their community in the same way so many litter-picking groups across the city already do, but they should ensure they do so safely and seek permission from property owners first as the cleaners could be liable if they cause any damage.