Town offers rewards for whistle-blowers in battle against graffiti

For many Czechs, graffiti is one of the less welcome bi-products of the changes that have swept society since 1989. Whether it's the Technicolor swirls that adorn concrete walls across the country's towns and cities, or the so-called "tags" or signatures that appear on buildings and bus shelters everywhere, the Czech authorities appear to fighting an endless battle against graffiti. But the town of Kadan has taken an unusual step in this fight.

Kadan,  photo: SchiDD,  CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported
Kadan is a picturesque little town in a heavily industrial corner of north-west Bohemia, about 30 km from the German border. It's dotted with historic buildings, among them a Franciscan monastery, several churches and the town's original medieval fortifications.

To combat the problem Kadan town council is offering financial rewards to citizens who report any information leading to the prosecution of sprayers. The council is offering a reward of 30,000 crowns, (about 1,200 dollars), which is almost two months' average salary in the Czech Republic. That's a considerable amount of money in an area suffering from high unemployment. The council hopes this will make people more aware of the problem, and also help solve it.

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
Graffiti is a problem throughout the Czech Republic. Visitors to the capital Prague often comment on the amount of graffiti adorning the city's buildings, including churches and other historically valuable monuments. The authorities have been battling graffiti for years, and now claim to be winning that battle. With the help of a new system of security cameras, police claim to catch around 50 graffiti sprayers a year, and say the boom in graffiti that reached a peak in 1990s is now over.

So far there are no plans to introduce a similar system of rewards for whistle-blowers in Prague. The mayor of Prague, Pavel Bem, is however determined to get tough on graffiti and other forms of vandalism in the capital. Writing in this month's newspaper produced by Prague City Council, Mr Bem talks of wanting to emulate the "zero tolerance" policy of the former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, who himself recently visited Prague. So we could see some changes in the way police and other authorities deal with grafitti and graffiti artists.