It is a well recognised fact that the look and appearance of an area can have a powerful impact on the health and wellbeing of the people who live there, reports Sean McLaughlin.
It is equally recognised, in what has become known as the “Broken Window Syndrome”, that if an area - be it a street, a neighbourhood or a district - is allowed to become run down, it is a hundred times harder to turn it around than it is to prevent it in the first place.
It is these facts that have informed the work of the Triax Neighbourhood Management Team (TNMT) as regards graffiti for the last two years.
As graffiti has been painted, so it has been removed.
The TNMT says it has no position on the graffiti it removes and over the years it has removed graffiti in support of and opposed to any number of political and paramilitary organisations, graffiti targeting individuals and groups and graffiti that appears to serve no purpose other than the entertainment of the graffiti writers.
Colm Barton, a Development Worker with the TNMT, told the ‘Journal’: “Over the last two years, TNMT would have removed in excess of 1,000 pieces of graffiti.
“We have never sought to get into the whys and wherefores of any particular piece and have no position on the content.
“We have asked residents their views on graffiti and received an unequivocal response.
“The vast majority of residents see graffiti of any kind as a negative influence on their areas and want it removed.
“That is what underpins our work and what we are committed to doing.”
Colm Barton says there must be better ways to articulate a point of view than painting it on someone’s wall.
“We have consistently welcomed the erection of boards and murals that do this,” he says.
“Residents resent that people feel they have a right to spray-can their property and I have lost count of how many times I have been told that, if people want to graffiti, they should do it on their own houses.”
Colm Barton says TNMT’s graffiti removal project is “extremely popular” with residents in the areas plagued by the scourge.
“Residents frequently approach our staff and volunteers to commend them for their work and offer encouragement and congratulations.
“In saying that, it has not been without difficulties.
“We have had the disgraceful situation where the homes and vehicles of staff have been attacked because they were involved in cleaning up the area.
“While those attacks were disgraceful, we were, nonetheless, heartened by the support we received from the local community.”
He added: “As we enter what has the potential to be a very exciting time for the TNMT, we do so committed to making the Triax area the cleanest, safest and most welcoming area it can be.
“I think it is fair to say that graffiti removal will be a key area of this work; but, even in the last two years, I have noticed a significant reduction in the amount and frequency of graffiti.
“If it is a battle, it’s one the residents seem to be winning.”