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Research Brief: Graffiti and Vandalism on Public Transport

NCJ Number
Paul Wilson
Date Published
4 pages
Graffiti and vandalism on public transportation in Australia were studied, with emphasis on the causes of this behavior and the implications for specific policies to prevent or reduce these problems.
Railway station assistants, train car cleaners, and staff responsible for repairs of train seats in New South Wales have reported a significant and sustained increase in the amount of vandalism and graffiti over the past several years. Sydney graffitists are mainly young adolescents and include both males and females, although males predominate. Vandals are typically males ages 13-17 who are from poorer socioeconomic areas, have relatively low levels of education, and belong to large families. Interviews with graffitists reveal that they aim to comment, inform, entertain, persuade, offend, or simply confirm their existence. Vandalism includes acquisitive, tactical, ideological, vindictive, play, malicious, and innocuous vandalism. Findings worldwide and in Australia suggest that policies should focus on fast repair of vandalism and removal of graffiti and community actions such as using community murals and other forms of art in railway stations and trains. Other actions should include the establishment of a comprehensive information system on these issues, increasing the visibility of staff on trains, and establishing a Rail Watch similar to Neighborhood Watch for the staff and the public. Overall, policies should recognize that reduction rather than elimination is a realistic policy and that the focus should be on both increasing the risk of arrest and diverting motivation. Table and notes