Almost half of graffiti in Sunderland is racist or offensive, shock stats show
Nearly half of all graffiti reported in Sunderland in recent years was racist or offensive, new figures have revealed.
A freedom of information request, submitted to Sunderland City Council (SCC), lists the number of graffiti reports between April 2012 and November 19, 2018.
Over the six-and-a-half year period, 1,303 graffiti incidents were recorded with 44% or 570 classed as ‘racist or offensive’.
Examples in recent years include a racist message spray painted on the Jami Masjid mosque in Chester Road and similar attacks on takeaways and shops.
Council bosses, police chiefs and charities have since slammed the figures, condemning those responsible.
Head of environment and transport for SCC, Coun Amy Wilson, called on the public to report graffiti, describing it as “ugly, unsightly and against the law.”
“Graffiti is unacceptable and with all the squeezes on council budgets, staff have other tasks that they could be getting on with instead of cleaning up after a minority of messy faceless idiots,” she said.
“And when it comes to racist and offensive graffiti, there’s simply no place for it in our city because it’s a hate crime and is investigated.”
The most targeted ward for graffiti in Sunderland is Hendon followed by Millfield, Hetton, St Peters and St Annes, the freedom of information request revealed.
Between 2016/17 and 2017/18 offensive and racist graffiti reports jumped up from 93 to 116.
From April this year alone, 73 incidents have been reported.
Leader of Sunderland’s Liberal Democrat Group, Niall Hodson, said he receives frequent complaints from Millfield and Pallion residents about the quantity of graffiti and delays in removing it.
The councillor, who represents the Millfield ward, added: “What’s especially concerning is just how much of this graffiti is offensive or racist, or is abusive towards specific individuals.
“It’s just not acceptable that people have to live surrounded by this, and I would like to see the police and council working together on a strategy to deal with it proactively.”
In the North East, several charities also aim to tackle racism with education and awareness campaigns including Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC).
The UK charity aims to use high-profile nature of footballers to promote anti-racism messages and regularly works with Sunderland AFC on events.
A spokesman for SRtRC said: “Racist graffiti is a visible sign of hate, which can have significant negative effects on communities.
“It is good that it is being reported and recorded, but worrying that of all incidences of graffiti in recent years, racist graffiti makes up a sizeable proportion.
“Hate crime often spikes following events, such as the EU referendum and terrorist attacks, and 76% of hate crime is racist.”
He added: “It is important to challenge racist ideas and prejudice wherever they occur.
“Education is key to change the attitudes that can support racism and SRtRC has worked with many schools in Sunderland over the years, using activities which encourage young people to think critically about racism.
“Unfortunately, due to local authority cuts, we currently don’t have funding to carry out a free programme of educational work in Sunderland schools.”
Northumbria Police have also pledged to tackle the issue of racist graffiti in Sunderland.
Inspector Jamie Southwell added: “It is completely unacceptable to abuse someone because of their race, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability or any other protected characteristic.
“There is no place for hate crime in our communities. As a force, we have a proactive approach to tackling hate crime and raising awareness of such offences.
“There has been a significant improvement in how we record hate crime and a better understanding among officers about what constitutes a hate crime and the additional support that can be provided to victims of this type of crime.
“We will continue to take swift action against any perpetrators and work closely with partners to ensure any offensive graffiti is removed as quickly as possible.
“If you have been a victim of hate crime we would urge you to come forward and contact police.”
Sunderland City Council defines graffiti as “anything which is written, scratched, painted or sprayed on the surface of any property” and can be reported at www.sunderland.gov.uk.
To report racist graffiti, call Northumbria Police on 101.
General / racist graffiti data April 2012 to November 19 2018.
Offensive / racist
Most target wards for graffiti in Sunderland (from highest to lowest).
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service