Writing on the wall for vandal in art attack

A CRACKDOWN on graffiti has chalked up its latest success after catching a serial tagger described as one of the Capital's most prolific.

Police said Calum Brindley, 20, was behind more than a dozen vandal attacks.

Brindley, of Leamington Terrace, Bruntsfield, who uses the tag OHKS, was caught following an investigation by the Leith neighbourhood action unit.

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He was charged with daubing graffiti on Rose Street and Leith Walk, Great Junction Street, Commercial Street and Leith Links.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, he was ordered to carry out 400 hours of community service, half for the damage he caused and half for breaching bail conditions.

The graffiti was written on a mixture of public and private properties, including shops. The tag has also been used along the canal towpath and Potterrow.

Pc Graham Belfall said Brindley's tag was part of the OE gang, believed to stand for either Own Edinburgh or On Edge.

He said: "His tag is the most prolific in Edinburgh and he was certainly one of the most dominant. It has appeared on a lot of buildings to the distress of the owners and residents.

"Graffiti increases the fear of crime and can cause significant damage to buildings.

"People who vandalise in this way don't appreciate the impact it has and often try to write their tags as many times as possible to gain recognition."

Brindley was identified after police collated information about individual tags and targeted the ones being used. Some of the taggers who were caught were referred to a city arts project to become involved in different forms of art.

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Pc Belfall said: "A lot of the time there's ignorance to what art actually is, or they turn their noses up at other art forms, so this project was about exposing them to other art forms in an attempt to steer them away from the illegal signs."

Brindley's sentencing follows a successful police operation which last month led to 11 teenagers being detained for spraying the OE signature on buildings, billboards and signs across the Capital.

Eight of them were arrested and charged with more than 80 instances of graffiti, while three were released pending further inquiries. The youths were detained following a joint initiative between police and the city council, under the name Operation Ascend.

Pc Belfall added: "Tagging can be a status symbol for people but sometimes it's just mindless and people do it because they aren't aware of the consequences."

The council removes graffiti promptly from all local authority buildings, as well as particularly offensive material – usually racist or sexual in content – from private properties. Otherwise it is up to the building's owner to deal with the problem.

Leith Walk Green councillor Maggie Chapman said the wider issue of why people chose to spray graffiti needed to be tackled. She said: "Rather than just looking at that one person and his sentencing, we need to think about the broader issue.

"Why is that the only way some people feel they can express themselves?

"Maybe there's a possibility for expression in a way that doesn't actually cause public nuisance.

"The arts project is a very good idea and shows them that their skills can be valued and don't need to be demonised."