Tagging epidemic spreads over Oslo

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Property owners and city officials are suffering through another wave of tagging in Norway’s capital, and elsewhere in the country as well. New “signatures” keep popping up and now there’s believed to be no less than 26,000 “tags” in Oslo.

Moves have been afoot for the past 10 years to stop the vandalism caused by cans of spray paint and felt pens. Police have tried to round up taggers by catching them red-handed, while hundreds of property owners have joined the city’s “Stop Tagging” program, which sends crews out to remove tagging within 24 hours of a report, albeit for a subscription fee.

Vidar Atne, one of those employed to scrub away tags from public and private property, feels he’s fighting a losing battle. Newspaper Aften talked to him while he and colleagues were working on a wall in Oslo’s Nordberg district that was covered with tags. “This will probably take a week before we’re finished,” he said.

Oslo’s rapid transit system is especially hard-hit, not least the brand-new trains put into service during the past year. “We’ve seen a considerable increase from last year,” said Bjørn Rydmark, spokesman for Oslo’s metro system (T-bane). Around 40 incidents of tagging were reported just last weekend systemwide.

The neighbourhoods of fashionable St Hanshaugen, trendy Grünerløkka and Gamle Oslo report an “explosion” of tagging during the past year. City officials are trying to figure out what motivates the taggers, many of whom are grown Norwegian men in their mid- to late-20s. The taggers don’t always fit the stereotype of troublesome teenagers.

“Oslo is the most soiled city in Scandinavia,” says Jan Hauger, who heads a city clean-up effort. He advocates zero tolerance, and has allied himself with former taggers who can shed light on taggers’ motivations and methods. Oslo police, meanwhile, promise a new “tagging patrol” aimed at tracking down and charging taggers.

Atne says simply that tagging “must have consequences. There aren’t many today.”