Those of you who have visited the Czech capital will have noticed that many of the beautiful facades of Prague's historic buildings are marred by ugly graffiti. This problem is faced by many cities around the world and has been approached in different ways. A few years ago one of Prague's districts decided to do away with graffiti and its scheme has brought visible results.
Prague 6 is one of the city's larger districts. The central parts of this leafy, upmarket quarter were built in the first half of the 20th century, with a good sense of urban planning, including a lot of valuable architecture. No wonder that the local residents frown upon those who damage their pretty district.
Woman: "It's horrible, it's stupid."
Man: "The tags are just fights of the gangs in the subculture and the people who live in those buildings and have to look at it really don't care about that. It think it's a certain selfishness and childishness of the generation."
Woman: "It's ugly, they are destroying the buildings, even our school. I would fine them - at least."
A few years ago the authorities in Prague 6 launched a "Stop Graffiti" programme, the main principle of which is the immediate removal of graffiti; if any appears in the area it is painted over within 24 hours.
"The 'Stop Graffiti' programme is based mainly on the experience of international metropolises, especially Chicago. Until 2002 graffiti was removed only from houses in the city ownership and three years ago the protection expanded on to private houses as well."
Martin Salek is the spokesman for the municipal authority. He says that cleaning every piece of graffiti in the whole district within a day was very costly at the start, but the strategy has proved an efficient deterrent and the costs are now lower.
"The number of houses needed to be cleaned decreased by 28 percent which means money saving of about 100,000 euros. It's not just about the money saving related to the graffiti removals but there is the important fact that the building stops being an interesting target for the sprayers because of the instant removal of their creations."
The psychology behind the "Stop Graffiti" programme is simple. As the special paints are quite expensive, the sprayers think twice before they paint on the same building again if their work is cleaned immediately every time. In order for the whole of Prague 6 to be clean, the town hall has invited property owners to join the programme, too.
"The programme has become very popular among the public as well. There are about 400 listed owners with 1,500 buildings. The graffiti removal expenses are covered by the municipal town hall from the budget."
Encouraged by the positive results, the Prague 6 municipality is determined to continue removing graffiti from facades until, as they hope, the sprayers give up altogether.
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