Graffiti writers are wreaking havoc in a South London neighbourhood by using its walls as a canvas for their spray painted tags, locals have claimed. The streets around Peckham's two railway stations are covered in graffiti with barely a shop shutter or wall not decorated with street art or smeared with writing.
In the high street branch of Costa Coffee, customers look out through window panes daubed with white spray paint spelling out a recurring illegible tag. While chains like Costa usually manage to clean up the graffiti eventually, independent businesses in the area appear to have given up trying as barely 24 hours go by before the tags return.
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Peckham resident Jennifer Chelley said the graffiti writers had no fear of punishment. She said: "I've confronted them before and they're well spoken. They take the train to the station and they say that people come from all over because it's the only place [they] can do it and [they] don't get stopped.
"They say 'we come here to add our imprint.' One of them had his cans of spray paint in a Selfridges tote bag. It's not local people who are doing it. I live in Peckham and I don't want Peckham to look like a ghetto and I said a while ago that the town centre is like the Hunger Games now. We need to give them a year's prison sentence or name and shame them."
Ms Chelley added the council appeared to have given up trying to clean-up the paint, but she acknowledged that central government budget cuts meant it lacked the money and resources to easily tackle the problem.
Abel Nwanokwai, owner of travel agents Unique Travel UK next to Peckham Rye Station, said he'd witnessed brazen writers tagging near his business in the middle of the day. He said: "It's something we're living with now. We haven't got a choice. Sometimes we see them in the day. We have delivery vans that park outside and even they have got it [paint] on them now. We also get people coming and fly posting outside too.
"It got worse during Covid year and beyond. I don't know if they had nothing better to do. But it's not teenagers; it's fully grown men from out of the area. They get up to the second floor and so high on the wall. We have delivery vans that park outside and even they have got it on them now."
But Joe Lo, 32, who lives in nearby Nunhead, said he thought the street art complimented the area, although he was less keen on the tags. Mr Lo, an editor, said: "The street art is great. The big 'Welcome to Peckham' sign on the Prince of Peckham, that's really cool. When it's all done in an arty way, it's cool. The tags are not as nice but they've never bothered me."
He added: "I don't think I would like someone doing any sort of graffiti on my home without my permission though. It's disrespectful."
Despite this, Mr Lo said he didn't support the council spending money on cleaning up graffiti when it had less cash to go around due to government budget cuts.
Southwark Council was contacted for comment on the issue but did not respond.
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