Community payback for Sidmouth’s graffiti vandals

Graffiti at the Stowford Community Centre. Ref shs 17-16AW 4857. Picture: Alex Walton

Graffiti at the Stowford Community Centre. Ref shs 17-16AW 4857. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Police will work with victims to find a suitable punishment after a graffiti trio admitted ‘tagging’ 25 Sidmouth properties.

Officers have been investigating a spate of incidents for several weeks, using forensic evidence and contacting spray paint manufacturers to catch the culprits.

Police say two of them were caught red-handed next to a fresh ‘tag’ – an individual’s identifying marker – and a third was later identified.

Sergeant Andy Squires said: “There was one night of madness, then more tags appeared over the next three weeks.

“We’ve been investigating and making extensive enquiries. We located various aerosol paint cans – it’s a specific artwork paint, not something you’d pick up in B&Q – and had forensic evidence off one of the cans. Then two males were reported acting suspiciously. We searched them and one had a rucksack full of aerosol cans. He admitted responsibility for tags right next to him that were still wet.

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“We’ve now identified three men that have been interviewed and admitted responsibility for the entire series.”

Sgt Squires said the three responsible were all local and in their early twenties.

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They are being dealt with locally through restorative justice.

Police officers will contact victims – who include private residents, businesses and East Devon District Council – over the next week.

They will be asked if they would like the graffiti cleaned off, a financial contribution towards the clean-up, or a letter of apology.

Sgt Squires said the trio was responsible for the spate of graffiti in black, silver, pink and purple paint that hit the town earlier this year, but not an earlier series using the ‘NKS’ tag – which reportedly stands for ‘Night Krime Scene’.

Officers mapped out the trio’s vandalism and identified a route straight across town, from Fortescue Road through alleyways to Stowford Rise.

“We showed them photographs and they were surprised at the extent of what they had done,” said Sgt Squires.

“They have expressed deep remorse and assured me they are changing their ways.”

Stowford Community Centre has repeatedly been targeted by vandals - including the trio.

Jan Jones, one of its directors, said: “I’m very pleased – they should pay for what they’ve done.

“I’m glad the police have caught them. It’s good for everybody in Sidmouth.”

She said the directors had been considering installing CCTV and hoped this meant they would not need to make the four-figure investment.

The fence of Gerald Hayne’s Manstone Mead home faces a footpath and several panels were defaced in the spate.

“I’ve done my best to clean it off,” he said. “It’s the effect when something like this happens – you feel you’ve been under attack or victimised, particularly if you’re a bit older. I’m glad the police have caught the people responsible and an example will be made of them.”

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