Writing on the Wall for Racist Graffiti

Krakow has become the first city in Poland to launch a major campaign against graffiti – with a focus on racist slogans.

The campaign is being co-ordinated by the organisation Interkulturalni PL. The group, which promotes multi-culturalism, will include a ‘street of shame’ gallery on its website to display some of the worst daubs on the city’s walls.

Krakow city council already spends around 150,000 zł a year, removing graffiti. However, it has for the first time joined forces with Interkulturalni to develop a joined up anti-racism strategy. Part of the strategy is intelligence-led, gathering information about graffiti hot-spots, the owners of buildings and the ‘tags’ that are sprayed on walls.

Radoslaw Gądek, deputy commander of the Krakow City Guard, said police would work closely with the council and with Interkulturalni. He told the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that the information gathered and collated would help to create a ‘portrait of graffiti’ in the city, which would in turn help to identify the vandals behind it and to uncover their motives. Krakow would also seek advice from other cities, to learn how they have dealt with similar problems.

Members of the public can get involved in the campaign by using a form on the website www.ekocentrum.krakow.pl to report graffiti. Michał Pyclik, spokesman for Krakow’s Department of Public Utilities, Transport and Infrastructure (ZIKiT), said the team would respond quickly to reports made via the website.

Mr Pyclik added: “Slogans that are particularly vulgar, insulting to religious feeling or threatening to ethnic groups will be removed immediately. The rest will be removed afterwards, because our financial capabilities are limited.”

While the removal of racist graffiti may be seen as a high-visibility, front-line action, the city, Interkulturalni and their partners have promised that the anti-racism strategy will run much deeper. Part of this strategy is the new website www.open-krakow.pl. Here, anyone affected by racism – whether as victims or witnesses – can file anonymous reports about their experiences. Just as with the graffiti arm of the campaign, the aim of the site is to gather information and develop a profile of racism in Krakow.

Interkulturalni’s Adam Bulandra said the key to success was educating the public, and he told Gazeta Wyborcza that the perpetrators of racist acts may not be aware that they were committing criminal offences that carried severe penalties.

Mr Bulandra added: “The fight against racism relies on educating the public from scratch, and on putting across the same message over and over again. Consistency is important.”

2 thoughts on “Writing on the Wall for Racist Graffiti

  • Avatar
    September 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm
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    Congratulations!!
    I wrote an article for the ‘Krakow Post’ a few years ago entitled “Krakow’s Graffiti”. ( go figure) Although it ended up on the “Letters to the editor” page, I’d still like for you to read it…

    If you take a walk around Krakow, You will find a beautiful City full of life and Culture. A colorful city with a history all its’ own.
    From Wawel Castle, to the main market square. Krakow is full of beauty and wonder. Its people are warm, friendly, and full of character. The shops offer a unique shopping experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
    If you get hungry while shopping, there are plenty of restaurants that will satisfy your appetite.
    If you are looking to stay for a while, there are countless number of Hostels, and Hotels in and around the city.
    You may even want to rent an apartment of your thinking of settling down and making Krakow your new home as I have.
    In short, Krakow is a wonderful European city, both to visit, or raise a family. It is a beautiful unique flower within the full bouquet known as Europe.
    If there is a dark side to this wonderland, it can be summed up in one word. ‘Graffiti!’
    This amateur form of self-expression puts an ugly coat on an otherwise beautiful city.
    Even the buildings with the missing pieces of cement, and old worn-out paint, adds more character, and looks more beautiful than this form of gang-like influenced art.
    When I arrived here in Krakow four months ago. I was anxious to get to know my new home.
    However, I was disappointed to see all the graffiti on just about every building I passed. I thought I had left this kind of nonsense back in the U.S.
    It is not just the old buildings that are being attacked by this form of vandalism. For example, the new construction around the ‘Przejscie pod Rondem Mogilska’ has recently been ruined with graffiti by some moron and his spray-can of paint. Months of construction, by an army of contractors, are wasted because somebody felt that it needed some illegible scribbling on the side of the wall. This serves little purpose other than ruining a beautiful addition to this beautiful city.
    It amazes me that the local police are unable, or unwilling to do anything to stop this terrible crime.
    I do not know exactly what the punishment is for defacing public property. Whatever it is, obviously it is not working.
    I believe strict and harsh punishments should be enforced if anyone is caught doing this to any public surface.
    In some cities in the U.S., violators are not only forced to pay a hefty fine, they also have to clean up the mess they left behind at there own expense.
    However, there punishment does not end there. They also have the honor of cleaning up an undetermined number of graffiti out among the city. Again, at there own expense.
    This kind of deterrence would eventually lead to an end to this ugly form of expression, and clean up the city we love.
    The fines paid by these vandals would only help Krakow’s revenue, and maybe pay for some much-needed repairs to the city, streets, and the surrounding neighborhoods, without raising taxes on its honest citizens.
    As I said before, I arrived here from the U.S. four months ago. I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Not an extraordinarily large city, but no small town by any means. For the most part, it is a clean city. However, like all cities in the U.S., there is a darker side just beneath the surface.
    The graffiti there is just as dirty, just as ugly, as anywhere else in the world.
    If you took a walk through downtown Denver, the one sure way you could tell where you were was the graffiti. If you did not see any, you were in a clean part of the city.

    A place where people enjoyed shopping, restaurants, theater, and culture. You felt safe walking through this part of the city. no matter what time of day or night.
    On the other hand, If the walls were marked with graffiti, you were most likely in the slums. A place where crime runs unchecked. A place where drugs addicts, and alcoholics begged for change. A place were people fight for there very survival everyday.
    Now imagine a city without graffiti. Without some political or non-political nonsense painted on the walls. Without some illegible scribbling on the walls of public buildings, parks, or tourist attractions. Imagine a clean city, with its buildings as beautiful outside as well as inside.
    This alone could be an asset to everyone living here, and an attraction for those that would like to visit.
    Let us imagine the city of Krakow as a priceless jewel, in a fine jewelry store. Let us take pride in our city and help out as much as we can, buy cleaning up graffiti around our neighborhood. Let us help out the police by reporting vandals when we see them, not turning the other way, hoping someone else takes care of the problem.
    Finally, lets all work together to save the city we love, and keep Krakow beautiful for generations to come.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    February 23, 2013 at 1:46 am
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    I just bought a third floor apartment on Ul. Sarego for my daughter and granddaughter.

    I am damn mad about the graffiti I saw on the building and plan on taking action to get it removed once I find out what the process is to get it done; either by the City, or the building owners.

    I live in the states, (Oregon), but am a Polish citizen by birth and son of a Polish Naval Officer and nephew of three uncles who fought in the 1944 Warsaw uprising.

    The city and all building owners should collectively take action to (1) remove the graffiti from their individual buildings and (2) develop an effective monitoring of all streets, either through neighborhood groups and video cameras, and actively pursue and punish the perpetrators.

    Where I live civil law requires that building owners have to remove graffiti at their own cost within a certain amount of days or face a civil fine. krakow might consider this type of approach.

    Reply

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