Published: 13:59, 21 January 2019
| Updated: 14:00, 21 January 2019
An appeal has been launched to help trace several prolific taggers behind an epidemic of graffiti vandalism in the city.
The city council believes as few as four offenders could be responsible for the much of the recent daubing of buildings and street furniture which has seen a 30% rise in the last year.
Now bosses are urging the public to call 999 if they see the vandals in action so that police can liaise with the CCTV control room to assist in catching the culprit.
The growing blight on the city was revealed at a meeting of the Canterbury Forum on Monday by where the council's 'safer neighbourhoods' chief Doug Rattray.
He said his enforcement officers were aware of the repetition of four specific tags types which were widespread across the city.
But he admitted that it even with CCTV it was often hard to identify offenders because they usually wore hoodies and scarves covering their faces.
Earlier this year the council released footage of a number of road signs being tagged.
The total time taken by the vandal for each incident was less than seven seconds.
"This particular group of offenders have a lot of tricks up their sleeve to evade detection so we
really need the public’s help,” said Mr Rattray.
"It's a constant challenge but somebody must know who they are," he added.
The surge in incidents was revealed as Mr Rattray updated Forum members on the environmental challenges facing the council which prompted around 250 reports a month on issues like graffiti, littering, fly tipping and dog fouling.
The council also now had a dedicated graffiti warden who had already cleaned off almost 300 tags from properties and street furniture in just the last three months. He is also working on gathering and co-ordinating intelligence to help the police prosecute offenders.
Contractor Serco also cleaned off 500 tags last year.
But Cllr Michael Dixey still accused the authority of "failing to get a grip" of the problem.
"I was in Cirencester recently - a city not unlike Canterbury - and didn't see single tag," said.
"By just cleaning it up, we are being reactive, not proactive.
"We need to use hidden CCTV to try and identify and nail these offenders otherwise it won't stop."
Cllr Nick-Eden Green agreed, saying he had "never seen it worse" and insisted it now had to be made a priority.
"My own house was tagged for the first time in 19 years and it really is about time it was stopped and the police need to know what's going on."
Cllr Alan Baldock said more education was needed in schools and youth centres to 'divert behaviour'.
Resident Brian Buggins told members: "It feels like we are fighting a losing battle - surely CCTV has got to be part of the answer."
Mr Rattray said the authority could only do so much and prosecution for criminal damage was the responsibility of the police.
"I don't think the city will ever be graffiti free, we can just keep it down, he added."
Despite the widespread problem, police have told the council they receive very few reports of graffiti vandalism.
Now Forum members are urging the council and residents to pass on all reports to the police so they are aware of the scale of the problem.
The council says anyone with suspicions about a potential offender can also 101.
A new online graffiti reporting system that allows people to attach photographs, use their smartphones to give an exact location or drop a pin on a map has also just launched by the city council.
It now takes just a couple of minutes at www.canterbury.gov.uk/graffiti to let the council – and organisations such as utility companies and Network Rail – know about graffiti that requires cleaning off their land.