Terry tackles town’s growing graffiti problem

5th December

A Heathfield man has been praised by local residents for taking the town’s graffiti problem into his own hands.

Terry Hazeltine with the clean door
Local hero and graffiti removal specialist Terry Hazeltine with the clean church door

Terry Hazeltine, who moved to Heathfield 16 years ago from South London, was so incensed when he saw the photos on the Heathfield News Facebook page that he vowed to do something.

He explains: “When I heard about the graffiti I felt angry and disappointed and a bit sad that this type of vandalism was happening in my home town. In places like London you sort of expect it, but I’ve never seen it on this scale in all the years I’ve lived here.  If you leave graffiti it will get added to and I hope by getting rid of it quickly the culprits will think it’s not worth bothering.”

The father of three spent many hours of his spare time cleaning off the graffiti. The worst piece was on the metal doors belonging to Kings Church off Station Road which needed cleaning with a high-pressure steam cleaner, and took about 45 minutes to remove. On the brick work he used paint stripper, specialist chemicals and scouring pads – plus a lot of elbow grease. On rare occasions, he says, you simply have to paint over the graffiti.

Terry has around 35 years’ experience of removing graffiti for different customers, mainly in London, so is an expert in his field.

According to Terry the culprits tend to do their work at night so it is difficult to catch them. He thinks boredom is the main reason people do it, but feels there should be more respect for other people’s property and that a greater police presence, especially at the weekend, would help to stop it happening again.

According to the Sussex Police Federation. Sussex Police had to deliver cuts worth £56 million between 2015 and 2020 which has resulted in fewer police officers in the county.

Terry, whose children went to Broad Oak Primary School and Heathfield Community College, thinks people are too eager to blame the government for everything rather than taking responsibility for their own children.

“There are lots of clubs and other things for children to do so there’s no excuse. Removing graffiti is costly and if I hadn’t done it the council would have had to pay someone and it probably wouldn’t have been removed very quickly. Personally, if my children did anything like that, god forbid, they would have to work to pay me back.

“The reason I wanted to help is because I really believe this is a great town and I love our community. There are some great organisations like Horam FC, Heathfield Park Cricket Club the Rugby Club and many others which are great for kids. Lots of people give up their time for these clubs so, for me, it felt good to give something back as well,” he added.

Terry admits that he has been completely overwhelmed by the response to what he’s done and the many comments from appreciative people.

He’s been offered a free haircut from Woody the Barber, a bottle of malt cider and lots of beer. “I’ve said no to it all – I’m doing this for the community and it’s great to be able to use my skills to help. There aren’t many people with my experience to be honest.”

Neighbour Kat Porter said: “I didn’t realise there was so much graffiti in the town until I saw the photos. No one asked Terry to do it – he just did it. We are all very proud of him. My friends and I all thought it was brilliant. People often complain about things but don’t do anything about them.”

A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: “We are addressing the problem of anti-social behaviour in the Wealden area as part of Operation Asteroid. Officers are conducting patrols with the specific focus of providing a reassuring presence to the local communities and to be on hand to tackle issues of anti-social behaviour. They have been tasked with patrolling areas identified through information and intelligence gained from the community.”