A MASSIVE blitz to wipe out the scourge of graffiti is to be launched by the Government.
Under new powers schools, hospitals and rail companies will be ordered by town halls to clean up daubed and defaced buildings. Private homes and businesses could also be targeted.
If the ugly mess is not cleared in 28 days, councils will be allowed in to do the job themselves and charge owners the full cost.
A senior Home Office source said: “Graffiti is not a minor crime. It costs hundreds of millions of pounds a year to clean up and can lead to areas going into decline.
“It can undermine the respect people have for the place where they live or work and create an environment where crime and fear thrive.”
At present, frustrated councils can only clean graffiti on public land.
But under Operation Scrub-it they will be able to issue removal notices to force other organisations to keep buildings clean.
The clamp will extend to bus shelters, street signs and defaced phone boxes.
Graffiti removal notices have proved a huge success in pilot areas where they have been on trial.
Ministers will launch the new nationwide campaign, part of Tony Blair’s Respect agenda, in April. It will be backed by a huge publicity drive.
Last year the Government introduced £50 on-the-spot fines for graffiti louts and made it illegal to sell spray paints to under-16s.
Our source said: “Evidence shows if graffiti is removed persistently and rapidly it is less likely to come back.
“Many street cleansing teams now have a rapid-response capacity. But clean-ups need to be backed up with enforcement.”
Ministers also want to remind courts that graffiti artists and vandals who cause major damage can be jailed for up to 10 years.
“Taggers” who daub distinctive signs on walls are targeted by police.
Members of the public have been offered £500 rewards for shopping names behind well-known “tags”.