Vandalism is blind destructiveness or delight in destruction which is usually expressed in the form of damage to property. Penal law does not have its own statutory offence for vandalism. Acts of vandalism can fulfil numerous statutory offences of the Swiss Penal Code (SPC) however.
Scratching or denting vehicles, spraying buildings or vehicles (graffiti), paint bomb attacks on buildings, smashing shop windows or window panes, demolishing parks, setting fire to buildings or vehicles, laying waste to building sites, knocking over scaffolding, laying waste to plantations, telephone booths and toilets or exploding mailboxes with fireworks are just a few forms of vandalism. Vandalism is the unlawful, wilful and uncontrolled damage, defacing or destruction of objects of public or private ownership and therefore practically always fulfils the definition of damage to property (SPC Art. 144). In the worst case acts of vandalism can even cost human lives. With destroyed traffic lights, removed manhole covers, damaged fire extinguishers or removed rescue equipment we can no longer talk of a prank.
Vandalism is continually on the rise and must not be overlooked: we see it again and again in the form of defaced house fronts and slashed seat covers on public transport. Quickly removing graffiti and repairing damage discourages the perpetrator. Unfortunately acts of vandalism are primarily perpetrated by youths – often out of boredom, frustration or anger. It is not uncommon that damage to property arises from the group. Under the influence of the group children and youths are often pressured into uncontrolled collective behaviour. Consumption of drugs and alcohol increases this effect even further. The children and youths are only rarely aware of the consequences in terms of criminal and civil law.
What can be done against vandalism?
Do not look away if you see someone damaging public buildings or private property.
What can you do as a witness?
- Never intervene yourself! Violence against property can also easily become violence against people, especially when alcohol is involved or when there is a group of perpetrators.
- Precisely observe what is happening and make yourself available as a witness.
- Report your discoveries to the police immediately by calling the emergency number 117.
- You could maybe photograph the damage with your mobile phone and report the offence immediately.