Brussels’ transport network STIB spent at least €875,000 to remove graffiti from its vehicles and stations, Belgian newspaper La Capitale reported on 27 April.
The extent of graffiti in the Brussels Metro network was revealed to the public following a Mobility Committee meeting on 26 April.
The majority of graffiti affected the capital’s stations, with a total of €597,000 being spent on graffiti removal. €235,000 was spent on removing graffiti from metro trains, €3,000 on buses and €40,000 on trams.
Vandalism on the capital's transport network is also on the up. According to Belgian MEP Ibrahim Donmez, more than 850 acts of vandalism were reported in 2021, up 287 cases since 2020, and 420 more than in 2019.
“There is a clear increase in unauthorised graffiti, which is worrying because it is part of a general increase in damage, vandalism, which has led to increasing insecurity among travellers,” added Belgian MEP Julien Uyttendaele.
In March, STIB claimed that it spent €2 million per year repairing its vehicles from acts of vandalism.
The problem is not exclusive to the STIB. Belgium’s rail network, the SNCB, was hit with a hefty €6 million bill for graffiti removal from its trains in 2020.
The high costs, the Belgian Minister of Mobility Elke Van den Brandt explains, are due to the fact that graffiti removal must be done quickly and often without much prior warning. For racist or hateful graffiti, STIB promises to remove the vandalism within 3 hours.
To combat offenders, measures have been taken to record the actions of those who vandalise STIB’s property for later prosecution.
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Van den Brant states that STIB has invested in an increased presence of staff in stations, and they have also added cameras in stations, vehicles, depots and warehouses, and have put up extra fences to prevent the degradation of property."
Viewed by some as art, and others as an endemic problem, graffiti continues to divide opinions across Brussels. At the city’s iconic Mont Des Arts, the local municipality has battled to remove graffiti, and has been described as the “most tagged spot in Belgium.”
A spokesperson for Bruxelles-Propreté, the body in charge of keeping Brussels clean, said that the issue of graffiti is a “structural problem” that cannot simply be fixed with greater spending.
Despite many critics and battles with the authorities, graffiti is also seen by many as part of a wider phenomenon of street culture, born in the 1970s and 1980s in New York City and still survives today, alongside hip-hop and breakdancing.