From broken windows to a renovated research agenda: A review of the literature on vandalism and graffiti in the rail industry

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - personal safety/crime, mode - rail, place - australasia, place - europe, place - north america


Vandalism, Graffiti, Railways, Literature, Theory, Research


The execution of vandalism and graffiti on rail property has a significant impact on rail authorities, the patronisation of rail services, expenditure, and the timely operation of services. There are also important social costs which stem from passengers feeling unsafe, not to mention the environmental costs of removing graffiti and repairing vandalism. In this review paper, we focus on the social, non-technical determinants of and deterrents to vandalism and graffiti in the rail industry. First, we consider the definitions of graffiti and vandalism that are often conflated. After providing some clarification on terminology, and proposing a media-centred approach to vandalism and graffiti, we consider various theorisations of the psychosocial determinants of vandalism and graffiti behaviour. We then turn to an empirical discussion of different technical and social, non-technical prevention programmes that have been trialled. With a focus on identifying what works and under what circumstances, we refer to international case studies of successful vandalism reduction initiatives from Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia. Based on a review of literature and practice, we outline a future research agenda to address vandalism and graffiti. We recommend lines of further research covering: theory, empirical data collection and practical initiatives. Specifically, we note the need for a trans-theoretical model of vandalism and graffiti, further ethnographic research and improved evaluation and benchmarking strategies. This is the first review dedicated to the topic of vandalism and graffiti in the rail industry and the first review of non-technical, social deterrents to vandalism and graffiti broadly.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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