FOI request detail

Train graffiti

Request ID: FOI-3979-2324
Date published: 19 February 2024

You asked

F/on from FOI-3732 Could the question ‘Have any incidents of graffiti since September 2023 been directly related to Palestine’ be reviewed under the Act? Moreover, could you clarify the process for recording graffiti that TfL currently uses, irrespective of whether this request is approved?

We answered

Our ref: FOI-3979-2324/GH

Thank you for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 2 February 2024 asking for information about graffiti.

Your request has been considered under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and our information access policy. I can confirm that we do hold the information you require.

For London Underground trains, all external, and any extensive or offensive internal criminal damage (“graffiti”) to our rolling stock is recorded - with a description of the date, time, location and nature of the damage, measurement of the area of the train carriage affected and where possible a photograph of the damage. This information is associated to an incident report record. Details are stored in a locally maintained database. All information is submitted to British Transport Police following internal investigation.

As incidents are recorded locally, rather than in one central place, we would need to look through a number of databases for each London Underground line in order to advise if any ‘graffiti directly related to Palestine’ has been recorded. This, as previously advised, would exceed the ‘appropriate’ cost limit for dealing with an FOI request.

That said, we also consider that the information requested is exempt from disclosure under sections 31 (law enforcement), 38 (health and safety) of the Freedom of Information Act. The rationale for the application of each is given below.

Section 31 applies where release of information would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime. As you will no doubt be aware, the TfL network can often be the target of graffiti and other vandalism, and anything that encourages this is detrimental to our efforts to combat it. We have avoided releasing information on graffiti on the TfL network in the past and we continue to be very cautious about encouraging vandalism by releasing any information that makes TfL assets an attractive target by increasing the perceived “challenge” to graffiti vandals which we know is a key motivation for their activity. 

Section 38 is engaged because in order to commit graffiti offences it is often necessary for perpetrators to trespass onto prohibited, unsafe areas of the TfL network - such as on the tracks and in our depots. Clearly this can be highly dangerous, as illustrated by the deaths of young people on the National Rail network in the past, as covered in this news item have been other deaths associated with possible graffiti vandals, as featured in this news item:

It is clear to us that any increase in graffiti attempts on our network translates into an increased danger to health and safety, not only for those committing the trespass into inherently dangerous areas of the network (as evidenced in the news articles above), but also to the TfL employees and law enforcement personnel who work in these areas and who have to deal with the consequences.

These exemptions are “qualified”, meaning we have to consider whether the greater public interest rests in them applying and the information being withheld, or in releasing the information in any event. TfL recognises that there is an inherent public interest in openness and transparency, and in particular where this relates to the maintenance of public assets and the effective expenditure of public funds. In this case, it may also be of interest in enabling the general public to understand the extent of this problem on our network. On the other hand, there is a very strong public interest in discouraging graffiti and other forms of vandalism on the network, in order to protect the spending of public money and to protect the health and safety of perpetrators and staff. As outlined above, we consider that the publication of this information would be likely to increase graffiti attempts on the network as it is seen as a sign of success by graffiti vandals. We consider that the inherent public interest in openness and scrutiny of our expenditure is to a large extent satisfied by the information that TfL already publishes, such as via our Annual Report and Accounts, and therefore believe that the balance of public interest rests with the exemptions applying.

If you are not satisfied with this response please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Graham Hurt
FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
General Counsel
Transport for London

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