BERLIN – One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Berlin was the graffiti. It’s everywhere – there is hardly a building without at least a little spray paint.
The photos above are all from Friedrichshain neighbourhood, where I’m living. Some installations look like they were put there with the owner’s permission; others, not so much. While there’s graffiti all over the city, Friedrichshain is certainly a hotspot.
Coming from “War on Graffiti” Toronto, it’s all a bit of a culture shock.
I asked the local police how they regard graffiti. Here’s how they responded.
Is graffiti legal in Berlin?
No, it is illegal.
What are the possible consequences for illegal graffiti?
The penalty extends from a simple reparation of the damages and a low fine to a custodial sentence up to two years.
Are there programs currently in place to reduce or eradicate graffiti in the city?
On the one hand we inform about the illegality of graffiti, on the other hand offences are resolutely persecuted.
The police in Berlin have established a task force charged only with graffiti-related offences consisting of 10 persons from the German Federal Police and 15 persons from the Berlin Police. Moreover colleagues in each police station work on graffiti-related cases among other offences.
Concerning juvenile delinquents the police in Berlin have initiated a program to avoid long legal proceedings. Under certain circumstances they are obliged to make up for the damages they caused, while the proceedings are quashed.
I notice quite a bit of graffiti around Berlin. How effective do you feel your programs have been in reducing graffiti?
In our experience, the described treatment of juvenile delinquents is very effective – in graffiti-related cases as well as in others.
Graffiti is not the police’s major problem in Berlin.