Graffiti is words or drawings that are written, painted, sprayed or scratched on the surface of any property.
We aim to remove all hate speech and offensive, racist and sexist graffiti within 2 working days of it being reported. Where this is not possible, it will be painted over. This covers both Council and private/YHN property (but to remove it from private property we need the owner's permission).
All other types of graffiti on Council-owned structures only will be removed or obstructed when operationally possible.
Responsibility for removing graffiti
The Council is responsible for removing graffiti and fly-posters from its own buildings, street furniture or monuments. There is no legal time limit for doing this.
Other structures, such as telephone boxes, bus shelters and electricity sub-stations, are the responsibility of the company that has placed them there.
Graffiti on private buildings, both domestic and commercial, is also the responsibility of the owner to remove or obscure.
The Council can't remove graffiti from private houses and other private property without the owner's permission.
Report graffiti on land, buildings or structures owned or managed by the council or report offensive graffiti
If your own property has been targeted by graffiti vandals, we recommend that you report this to the police as criminal damage. Obtain a crime reference number and speak with your insurance company.
Graffiti on utility company property such as BT or Virgin Media boxes or electricity infrastructure, or on structures such as bus shelters or railway bridges should be reported directly to the company responsible for the asset rather than the Council.
Without permission of the owner of the surface, graffiti is criminal damage under section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. Criminal damage is a crime and should be reported to the police. Anyone caught committing damage could be arrested.
It is a criminal offence under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 to sell an aerosol paint container to anyone under the age of 16 years. Aerosol paint is often used in graffiti vandalism. By banning the spray paint to under 16 year olds it is hoped that the incidents of graffiti will be reduced. The sale of age-restricted products is enforced by the Council's Trading Standards service.
If you know or suspect anyone committing criminal damage you can report it by contacting Northumbria Police on 101 or on the Northumbria Police website. If the crime is witnessed in progress, call 999.
Powers to serve defacement or graffiti removal notices were repealed in 2014. The notices never applied to private buildings, only structures in the highway (street furniture (e.g. bus shelters, advertising boards, street signs, phone boxes, etc.), plant or other apparatus (e.g. communication junction boxes)), schools and property of statutory undertakers, visible from public land. The Council does have a power to issue a community protection notice to the property owner under section 43 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 which would require them to remove the graffiti if the conduct of the property owner is unreasonable and having a detrimental effect, of a persistent or continuing nature, on the quality of life of those in the locality.