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Declaring War On Graffiti

Declaring War On Graffiti

Manukau City Council is looking at ways of countering the alarming rise in graffiti over the past year, including considering a ban on sales of paint spray cans to minors and erasing graffiti on private as well as public property.

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis says he wants the city to declare war on tagging and other graffiti, which has spread like wildfire.

There was a 69% increase in reported graffiti in the areas monitored within Manukau in the year to last December. The monitored areas are all on major roads but other streets are not monitored, so the full incidence is not known.

In December 2001 there were 502 incidents recorded but in the following December there were 848. The worst effected areas are Otara (one third of all cases) and Manurewa. The least effected area is Howick.

The Council is now looking at spending an extra $200,000 on the graffiti problem in addition to the $517,000 allotted to it last year.

Sir Barry says the spread of the graffiti plague is alarming and a major public concern. “Feedback we are getting from the community confirms that people are extremely concerned by it and want action. They want it to be a priority for the Council, and it will be. It’s just a question of what our strategy will be.”

One option being considered is restricting the sales of paint spray cans to minors, as happens with cigarettes and alcohol. Recently a Papatoetoe shopkeeper sold 20 cans of spray paint to children who later that day covered the walls of a nearby sports facility with large amounts of tagging.

Tagging is done by large numbers of people and sometimes is linked to gang culture and the drug trade, with coded messages contained in the scribbling. Summer holidays are the peak time due to the number of students on the streets with free time on their hands.

Most taggers are young but it is believed that they come from a wide range of socio -economic groups. Some will travel across the city to leave their mark in suburbs far from where they live. In some cases they actively encourage other youth to join in.

Sir Barry says, “Graffiti is out-and-out vandalism. It’s not an art form and it’s not an acceptable part of urban culture. It reduces property values and instantly makes an area look run down and shabby.

“The Council is determined that this problem will be addressed. However we cannot just continue to throw more and more money at it. We need to change our strategy and we will be working with the Auckland City Council to see what we can learn from their approach.

“It is clearly a region-wide problem so we will be looking for region-wide solutions. I believe we must have a zero-tolerance policy and I would like to see the taggers prosecuted if possible.”

To help address the graffiti problem the Council recently set up the Manukau Beautification Trust. Since last December the Trust has now assumed contract responsibility for minimising graffiti in Manukau, along with handling associated activity such as organising clean-outs and youth education promotion.

The Trust has had a lot of success through innovative approaches such as running a pilot project among young people in Clendon. It has been working with the police who have succeeded in catching taggers in the act through stakeouts of often-targeted buildings.

The Trust’s focus has been graffiti on public property such as Council-owned buildings and fences, rather than private property. However many residents and property owners are failing to quickly remove tagging from their fences and walls, so the Council is now considering a change of policy to tackle tagging on private property.

Sir Barry says the identity of many taggers must be known within the community. “I appeal to anyone who knows someone tagging to ring the police so that action can be taken.”

Apart from reporting taggers, anyone noticing graffiti should contact the Council’s call centre on 2625104 to report it.

The Beautification Trust’s phone number is 2694080, fax 2624090.

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