This urban phenomenon is so widespread that it requires proper and dedicated attention
A couple of months ago, the Madrid Municipal Police launched its Urban Heritage Protection Section (SEPROPUR), which is a task force with the mission to investigate and solve illegal graffiti crime and hopefully reduce its presence in the urban environment.
The unit, which will consist of 39 agents, will work in conjunction with the Urban Planning, Environment and Mobility Area of the City of Madrid and with the Environmental Prosecutor’s Office. The police officers will work in shifts in order to provide 24-hour coverage and protection for the urban architectural heritage.
How will the anti-graffiti force work?
The anti-graffiti municipal police officers are in charge of carrying out actions based on the diagnosis of the situation and preparing risk maps of the affected public spaces of the city, as well as photographically documenting the graffiti.
They carry out an analysis of the damage and identify its authors as best as possible. Subsequently, and in collaboration with municipal cleaning services, they will restore the damaged area.
The identification part is interesting because SEPROPUR will go around the city photographing the illegal street art and create a database of it so they can identify common patterns, both in terms of areas, that attract graffiti artists and the specific authorship behind the mural paintings and tags.
Even if the works are mostly anonymous, they still demonstrate the specific style and signatures of their authors.
The latter are revealed by calligraphic expertise “so that through the study of graphology they are quite easy to trace, and we can be certain that it is the artist’s signature,” explains Marisa Robles, commissioner of the Madrid Environment and Heritage Commission.
She added that the city will focus mostly on the vandalism aspect of graffiti and tagging, rather than the works of established street artists who have a mission to express protest about social injustices. The differentiation is not always easy to make, though.
In 2023, the cleaning of graffiti in Madrid covered more than 560,000 square meters of urban space, 70% more than in 2022.