A TEENAGER once responsible for 80 per cent of the graffiti in Durham said he did it because he loved his city.

The 15-year-old, who did not want to be named, was the subject of a long police investigation after daubing his ‘tag’ repeatedly across the historic city.

Following his arrest, the rate of new graffiti in the city dropped by 80 per cent.

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He said: “People thought I was trying to ruin the city but I absolutely love Durham. It’s my city and by doing the graffiti, I felt like I was making Durham part of myself and I was part of it.

“I thought, in 20 years or more, there’ll still be part of me here.”

He was eventually caught in October and dealt with using a restorative approach, which allows offenders to attempt to make amends with those they have harmed.

As part of his punishment, the teen has spent time cleaning graffiti and litter picking around the city and has met with the man whose job it was to clean up the damage he caused.

With the guidance of police officers, he also prepared a presentation about his crimes and subsequent arrest that will be shown at schools.

He appeared at the Safer Durham Partnership’s Restorative Approaches conference recently, where he staged his presentation and spoke about how the process has changed his life for the better.

He said: “I didn’t realise you could get arrested and badly punished for graffiti and I didn’t realise how much it cost to clean or how many people it affected.

“Through this kind of punishment, I learned what I’d really done and how it wasn’t worth doing.

“Getting arrested was horrible, I made an absolute fool of myself and embarrassed my family.

"The worst part about it was being in a cell.  It was awful and not somewhere I ever wanted to be or ever want to be again."

He added: “If you are tempted to do anything like this, really think about what it’s going to do to your life - getting arrested could ruin everything.

“Think like an adult and think about how your actions could affect you and others.”