Marketing Elements developed and implemented a public relations campaign, on behalf of Crime Stoppers Australia, to raise awareness of graffiti vandalism in residential, business and public areas in New South Wales (NSW).
The goal of the campaign was to reduce graffiti crime through prevention and awareness. The objectives included: educate youth on the difference between legal street art/graffiti and illegal graffiti/vandalism and that graffiti is an illegal act; encourage homeowners to prevent and report graffiti crime; and target councils to be more proactive in the prevention and removal of graffiti.
A three pronged strategy was developed, targeting 12-18 year olds, homeowners and councils. The method used included police and ex-graffiti artist visits to schools, localised media kits aimed at homeowners and information kits to councils. The campaign ran from September 2008 through March 2009.
The program proved to be extremely successful with media coverage in print, television and radio. Requests for other school visits came into the Crime Stoppers unit. Students were surveyed post police visit and the majority agreed that graffiti was an illegal form of art.
Crime Stoppers is a community-based program which encourages the public to share information on unsolved crimes or suspicious or unusual behaviour.
Police research found graffiti vandalism was on the rise with many teenagers not aware of the difference between legal street art and illegal graffiti. Statistics also supported that graffiti vandalism usually led to more serious crimes.
In NSW, the dollar cost of juvenile crime, including graffiti, is in excess of $250 million per year. It is thought illegal graffiti may cost the Australian community $100 million per year. There is also a social cost associated with graffiti which is difficult to gauge. Most people reporting graffiti feel anger, shock and fear, and sadly, each year, families and communities have young people accidentally killed while engaging in vandalism on a moving train or on property in a rail corridor.
Graffiti offenders are usually aged between 12 and 25 years and are predominantly male with only five percent female. In NSW, all unauthorised graffiti is a criminal offence.
Many illegal graffiti artists thrive on seeing their work, so the best defence is prevention and reporting to ensure it is removed promptly.
Public relations was a necessary step in the fight against graffiti vandalism in order to appeal and engage with students aged 12-18 years, as opposed to talking ‘at’ them though a different channel and ‘big brother’ approach. Education and awareness were necessary in order to deter young graffiti artists and the inclusion of a commercial graffiti artist was essential in reaching this audience.
Public relations was also the ideal choice to capture the attention of a large community group – homeowners. The campaign, themed Be Graffiti Smart, allowed a series of documents, educating homeowners, to be publicised to this larger audience.
There were two main sources of research – Crime Stoppers research and an online survey.
Research by Crime Stoppers showed people get involved in graffiti mainly to rebel. They also have a desire to be recognised, to be part of a group, do it as a dare, because they are bored, to make a statement, get back at someone, compete with other taggers, to annoy someone or to simply vandalise property.
In addition, Crime Stoppers NSW conducted internal audits within its Local Area Commands (LAC) on the amount of graffiti reports each area receives from the community. They released figures of police areas with the most graffiti incidents in a six-month period in 2008 - according to the LAC this was known as the ‘hot-hit list’. There was also a known link between graffiti vandalism and more serious crime.
Crime Stoppers devised a list of LAC based on high graffiti incidents in order to target specific areas.
Marketing Elements commissioned an online survey, conducted by Pure Profile with 500 participants from NSW aged 12-18 years. 52 percent of the participants were aged 12 -15, and 47 percent were aged 16 -18.
Marketing Elements utilised the youth research (their knowledge and attitudes) to develop the story angles for youth and news media, communicating that peers thought only ‘losers’ conducted illegal graffiti and ‘it’s not cool at all’.
The Graffiti campaign had three key target markets.
- Youth – students aged 12-18 years
- Community – homeowners
- Councils – community liaison officers
Youth aged between 12-25 years were the main graffiti offenders. The school backdrop provided the ideal opportunity to reach the major offenders within that age group. 12-18 year olds are at an impressionable age where they can become involved in illegal activities due to peer pressure. We needed to counteract the lure of the adrenalin that comes with illegal graffiti with facts and figures they can relate to as well as realistic consequences offenders will face.
Homeowners were targeted, appealing to their need for safety in their area, encouraging them to take prevention measures and report the crime.
Councils were crucial, as Crime Stoppers do not ‘clean up’ crime. Cleaning or painting over the graffiti will result in the artists’ work going unseen and be a deterrent to graffiti in that location, so it was important councils were made aware of the campaign.
The strategy behind Be Graffiti Smart was to develop and deliver specific messages to reach the audiences in a relevant, emotive way.
For youth, the messages needed to be on how their peers didn’t think graffiti was cool, it was dangerous and that they could have a criminal record while still in school. Enlisting a commercial graffiti artist who had been there and saw friends killed committing graffiti crimes was the primary tactic. Through school communication, we ensured that parents were aware of the positive step the school was taking towards educating their children on the negative side of graffiti.
For homeowners, the strategy was designed to appeal to their sense of community and safety encouraging them to take preventative action as well as reporting.
With councils, we were able to inform them that they were in the top hit areas for graffiti crime and that they needed to do something about it.
To reach 12-18 year olds, a commercial graffiti artist was enlisted to undertake several school visits and speak to students about the negative impact that graffiti vandalism has on property, the community and also the people who undertake the crime in order to dissuade them from participating.
The school campaign also involved a police representative giving a presentation to the students focusing on different forms of graffiti, why it is a crime, how it affects people and the consequences and fines administered.
The interactive speech by the graffiti artist (who gave a personal rendition of his bad experiences of graffiti first hand in order to deter the students) also talked to students about friends he had lost through graffiti crime where they were killed trying to graffiti trains and tunnels. He informed how students can use their talent legally.
Broadcast and print media outlets were invited to the schools and given interviews with the speakers and students. The release can be found in Appendix A, titled ‘Crime Stoppers launches school campaign against graffiti vandalism’.
Local councils received a package containing information to be passed onto residents or be included into council newsletters and websites on what to do with graffiti on your property, who to contact and how to prevent it. This can be found in Appendix A, titled ‘Graffiti tips for home owners’.
There were also successful council case studies on graffiti prevention and removal designed to encourage the councils to be more proactive. This can be seen in Appendix A, titled ‘Dear Wollongong City Council’.
A media campaign was developed with various tailored media releases and media alerts distributed to metropolitan, suburban and regional television, radio and newspapers throughout NSW.
Local media was a key tool in disseminating information to the community. Media releases were targeted to each local area containing specific statistics relating to graffiti crime in that area.
The media kit included background information, survey results, graffiti vandalism facts and tips on how homeowners can assist in both reducing and reporting graffiti vandalism in their area. An example of the targeted media kit can be seen in Appendix A, titled ‘Rose Bay hits top 10 in NSW for graffiti attacks during 2008’
- The total media coverage achieved was over 30 clippings in metropolitan, suburban and regional papers, several radio and television interviews including major news bulletins on Nine and Ten. A list of clippings can be found in Appendix A, accompanied by various examples. The news bulletins can be found on DVD in Appendix A.
- Circulation reached over three million impressions.
- Anecdotal evidence from students agreed graffiti was not cool and they will definitely report it in the future.
- Additional schools wanting to participate in the anti-graffiti campaign.
- Positive feedback from the artist, teachers, principals, and police.
The most effective media achievements were:
-Channel Ten and Nine News – interviews with students, graffiti spokesperson and Crime Stoppers
-Radio interview on “Mornings with Deborah Cameron” on ABC Sydney.
The most effective result aside from the media obtained was the impact on students in gaining awareness.
- Educate youth on the difference between good/legal graffiti and bad/illegal graffiti.
Based on the school workshops and the feedback received from the attending students, there was a 100 percent change in awareness when it came to opinions on graffiti. Many students did not realise how serious graffiti was nor thought of it as a crime worthy of fine or jail term, others were definitely deterred by the concepts of having a criminal record and/or injury.
- Increase awareness.
We were able to reach a much broader audience through not only the schools program but also the local media and metropolitan TV news stations. From this coverage we had an increase in enquiries from schools wanting to participate in the program in order to educate their students.
- Call Crime Stoppers to report graffiti.
Crime Stoppers are still undertaking an audit of its calls. Unfortunately the figures were not available at the time of deadline.
- Raise awareness in the community about the negative impact and cost associated with graffiti.
The tips for homeowners and the statistics from the LAC were publicised in respective suburban and regional papers ensuring homeowners were aware of the impact of graffiti.
- Encourage the community to call Crime Stoppers with information relating to graffiti.
As mentioned above, Crime Stoppers is currently undertaking an audit of its calls during that period.
- Provide details of other successfully led council campaigns designed to combat graffiti.
Marketing Elements provided successful campaigns to all NSW councils.