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New Laws To Clamp Down On Graffiti Vandals Needed

27 July 2004

New Laws To Clamp Down On Graffiti Vandals Needed

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis says a tougher stand is needed against taggers in Manukau and he believes new legislation is the best way to achieve it, alongside similar moves to try to stop street prostitution.

Sir Barry is already pursuing the feasibility of a local bill being presented to Parliament in order to ban street prostitution in Manukau, which has become a problem in a number of city centres at night. He says the stronger measures to prevent tagging could also be included in that legislation in order to tackle two social problems at once.

"There has been no progress in terms of new legislation from central government to date, and the tagging blight just gets worse."

500 tags per day are being removed in Manukau by the Manukau Beautification Trust, which is funded by Manukau City Council and employs five people to remove tagging.

The Council is spending more than a million dollars a year painting out tagging and other graffiti vandalism on public buildings, and the cost is growing year by year.

Sir Barry says, "The city's had a gutsful and we clearly need stronger penalties for the taggers to hit them where it hurts. At the moment, the punishments are too soft. The penalties are so small that they are no deterrent. I would like to see the kind of no-nonsense measures taken overseas to curb the problem.

"We need to make it harder for people under 18 to buy or use the tools of the vandals' trade - cans of spray paint and broad-tip marker pens. But that's just one part of a three-pronged approach. We also have to prosecute the taggers themselves and change their mind-set."

Sir Barry would like the Council to get the powers to:

" ban the sale of spray paint cans and broad tip marker pens or similar tagging equipment such as glass-etching devices to under-18 year olds in the city

" make it illegal for under-18s to possess such materials in a public place

" impose penalties on shop owners or retail staff who break the law by selling these materials to under-18s

He says more resources are required to catch and prosecute taggers and, once caught, offenders should have to attend compulsory re-education programmes to change their attitudes and behaviours.

"Most taggers are young and I think that their parents should be involved in the re-education programme too.

"In places where the authorities have successfully slashed the amount of tagging - such as in Phoenix, New Mexico - there are stiff penalties, sales restrictions and forceful re-education of offenders.

"Undoubtedly, tagging is tied up with the spread of hip hop culture. But hip hop is not all bad. There are many positive things about it, including superb public murals which have been created by talented young painters. Graffiti art is not the same as tagging vandalism.

"At the moment we're pouring over a million dollars a year into a black hole and the problem is just getting worse. Something's got to be done." Sir Barry has put his proposal for legislative change to Manurewa MP and Police Minister George Hawkins, and received a positive response.


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