Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Prompt Response Is Needed To Thwart Criminals

September 19, 2010

Vandalism and graffiti are on the rise once again and the reasons could be many.

Could it be that more "free-spirited" people find themselves out of work in this tough economy, leading to more free time for such cheap "recreational" activity as graffiti, sometimes referred to as tagging?

Maybe another reason is that the availability of spray paint via the Internet has negated previous efforts of locking these products behind steel cages in retail stores. These products are readily accessible today.

Regardless of the reason, graffiti and vandalism cases have increased and as a facility manager, professional cleaner or building service contractor, it is your duty to maintain a proactive program.

Protecting Your Turf For Street Cred

The key to reducing graffiti is knowing that time is of the essence.

"A prompt response program reduces costs by treating a problem when it is small," says Tim Winesburg of Multi-Seal Corporation. "[Additionally,] visible graffiti hurts property values, suggests poor facilities management, indicates lax security and encourages [others] to pile on."

Even in discreet areas of the facility, a quick response can make a big difference in how criminals view and respect your facility and its surrounding areas.

"Anyone responsible for the care of buildings, park and recreational equipment, utility boxes, signage, vehicles and transportation equipment should know that it is very important to remove graffiti as soon as it occurs," notes Patty Ducey-Brooks, marketing manager for Motsenbocker''s Lift Off and spokesperson as well as a founding member of the National Coalition for Graffiti Removal. "Taggers will be more active and do more damage if their work is allowed to stay present. By leaving graffiti in place, taggers identify this as acceptance. That''s why it is best to remove it as soon as possible with the proper equipment and products."

Deterrence is another way to protect your facility.

According to the National Coalition for Graffiti Removal, landscaping is an attractive, natural deterrent to graffiti activity and it is know to significantly reduce graffiti by 99 percent.

Arm Your Crew Ahead Of Crimes

As with other cleaning tasks, it is vital to have graffiti removal products stocked and ready to go, especially when time is a critical factor in success or failure.

Especially, "If you know you''re susceptible, it is best to get the products ahead of time and keep them in storage," says Ducey-Brooks. "Having these products available is going to empower you to go out and [remove the problem] right away."

Although little, if any, training is needed in order to effectively rid your property of graffiti, there are some things cleaners should be aware of.

According to Winesburg, there are three main types of graffiti control: The use of cleaners; cleaning with abrasion; and making the surface easier to clean.

Cleaners can range from simple solvents to water-based biodegradable soaps.

Remember, criminals use various types of graffiti materials and your facility features a multitude of surfaces.

"We believe that the type of surface defines the best product to use," advises Winesburg.

The means of abrasion in graffiti removal have varied over the years, such as using sandblasting, pressurized water and softer abrasive materials like baking soda.

"These techniques can work, but are limited in what surfaces they can serve," notes Winesburg. "Also, you run the cost of the equipment and they require more training to avoid personnel injury and surface [damage]."

The final stage in graffiti removal is to make the surface easier to clean.

"Both sacrificial and permanent top coating sealers make cleaning faster, frequently without the use of cleaning chemicals at all. Manufacturers are also starting to make graffiti-proof surfaces. Long-term, protected surfaces will lower costs and discourage taggers."

Dealing With Different Surfaces And Vandalism

Knowing the surface, the type of vandalism and your options are critical in a graffiti removal and prevention program.

"For each application of graffiti there is a means to remove it. With painted surfaces, try to match the paint as closely as possible, so it doesn''t give the appearance that it''s been tagged," suggests Ducey-Brooks. "We also recommend that you first remove the graffiti with a graffiti remover so that it doesn''t bleed through the fresh paint."

For unpainted brick and concrete surfaces, which are porous, a wire brush and a high-pressure water system (1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI) with a 10-15 degree nozzle) can prove beneficial.

"Agitate the paint/graffiti with a wire brush and then use the high-pressure water system to get underneath the paint/graffiti. Remember, the paint has been absorbed because of the porous surface. We recommend that you work ''top-down'' when using the high-pressure water system," says Ducey-Brooks.

Just as important is being able to identify the different types of graffiti and vandalism that can plague your property.

According to Rich Parillo, building service contractor specialist at Pro-Link, there are actually two types of graffiti: Indoor graffiti and outdoor graffiti.

Examples of indoor graffiti include marks left behind from pens, markers and pencils.

However, experts warn strict caution when selecting a graffiti removal product for the job because the wrong product can lead to more problems, including surface damage.

"Because some surfaces are more delicate than others, the product should always be tested first to see not only that it is effective, but that it does not cause further damage to the surface," advises Parillo.

Professional cleaners should be armed with an adequate amount of supplies, knowledge of surfaces and an awareness of the different types of graffiti.

Cases are on the rise and chances are that your crew must answer the call in a timely fashion. Have you given them a head start?