Somewhere between art and damage Police to crack down on illegal graffiti in Bonn

Bonn · Hundreds of complaints about graffiti reach the police in Bonn every year. The officers want to take consistent action against vandalism. The graffiti scene in Bonn, on the other hand, demands more tolerance and spraying areas for their activities.

 There is a hotspot under the Südbrücke bridge in Bonn's Rheinaue, where a lot of spraying takes place. No column remains without colour. This is not allowed.

There is a hotspot under the Südbrücke bridge in Bonn's Rheinaue, where a lot of spraying takes place. No column remains without colour. This is not allowed.

Foto: Niklas Schröder

Graffiti, legal or illegal: they are an integral part of Bonn's cityscape. Passers-by and motorists can see the colourful spray art on motorways, bridges, trains and buildings. According to the police, most of the works of art constitute property damage. There are only a few legal spraying sites that could have a preventive effect here. This is why sprayers are caught in the act time and again.

The most recent example is five young men, aged 17 to 18, who are said to have sprayed paint on parts of buildings, signs and fences at the botanical gardens during the night from Saturday to Saturday. The suspects and possible others involved are being investigated by the police for damage to property. Similar proceedings have also been opened against a 23-year-old man who was recently caught spraying a noise barrier along the A565 at the level of Albert-Schweitzer-Strasse.

"The paint smears found on the noise barrier cover an area of approximately 15 by 2 metres", according to the police report. This is said to have caused material damage amounting to several thousand euros. Police spokesman Simon Rott warns against illegal spraying: "This is a criminal offence and will be punished accordingly. The police are consistently pursuing all reported paint graffiti".

Legal alternative: Graffiti-Walls

A legal alternative to colour vandalism are so-called graffiti walls. In Bonn they are located in the Rheinaue and at the Haus der Jugend. Niklas Miro Stieb (30) spent a lot of time in these places during his school days. "They were simply the places where people met after school to spray and skate," reports the Bonn native. "We gave each other tips while spraying and tried out our styles on the walls." So spraying is not only about aesthetics, but also about prestige and recognition. "You want to have your own style. I have worked with many bright colours," explains Stieb. When spraying, "freedom" in particular appealed to him, he describes. "I had a large empty wall in front of me, which I could design according to my own ideas." And yet Stieb's spraying art never stayed on the walls for long, because space was scarce and demand was high. "Other artists just sprayed it over again quickly.“

The graffiti walls were only suitable for many people to try out. At the age of 22, Stieb then left the spraying behind. He would like to see more free space for the Bonn graffiti scene: "The current locations are nowhere near enough. More must be done for the subculture in Bonn," he demands. "An artists' centre where sprayers can develop freely and present their art to the public, that would be a dream for many".

Graffiti scene demands more legal spraying places

A grey wall is being sprayed at the Haus der Jugend. Two young men, one in a cap, the other in a hoodie, are standing in front of the ten metre wide area. While thick and elongated letters are taking shape there, nothasty techno beats resound from a jukebox and the smell of chemical paint rises to the nose. The sprayers, who want to remain anonymous, seem completely absorbed in their art. Spraying illegally, they would not do it. "That costs too much money," says one of them, referring to the possible penalties.

The other demands more spraying places. "The illegal scene is encouraged by the few legal possibilities," emphasises Stieb. Another "graffiti wall" in the area of Derleteiche ponds/access to the Derlestraße bus stop is being planned, Andrea Schulte from the press office of the city of Bonn announced on request. However, the realisation is still at the beginning. "Depending on the availability of funds, the wall is planned for 2021.

Spray art against prejudices

Simon Horn and Stefan Vogt make preventive spray art. With their agency Highlightz, the two graffiti artists take on public and private commissions. "We spray large and small areas. In our experience, the areas are then left alone by other sprayers," reports Horn (37). With their work, the artists also spray against prejudices: "People see that you can also create many great things with the spray can," says Horn. The graffiti artist can only speculate about the reasons for the high level of paint vandalism. "The range of sprayers is wide and the reasons are manifold." One point is the cry for attention. "The sprayers want to be seen, there is an internal competition in the scene." According to Horn, bare and public areas in particular are well suited for colourful parade design.

Illegal hotspots are, for example, the train sidings in Bonn West, the Bonn underground shafts and the motorway access road on Graurheindorfer Strasse in Auerberg.

(Original text: Niklas Schröder; Translation: Mareike Graepel)

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