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New System For Tagging Offenders

19 March 2008

Media release

New System For Tagging Offenders

“Get tough on these mindless vandals.”

That was the message Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey took today to a parliamentary law and order select committee looking at new legislation to control graffiti.

Mayor Harvey was supported at today’s hearing by Iris Donoghue, managing trustee of the Tag Out Trust and member of the Auckland Regional Graffiti Free Project and the STOP (Strategic Advisory Group on Graffiti).

Together they outlined a plan for a new court system. The Youth Reparation Court (YRC) would see young offenders appearing before it within 48 hours of being caught. The YRC would be presided over by Justices of the Peace who would be able to impose instant fines and community service hours spent painting out graffiti.

Repeat offenders would be dealt with through the normal court system.

Mayor Harvey says although local authorities and the Police campaign vigorously against graffiti vandalism, law and enforcement is currently a weak link in the legislation.

“This Bill provides legal instruments that support the efforts that local government have been making for many years. Education and other preventative initiatives cannot work without the support of a law and enforcement approach,” he says.

Mrs Donoghue says that the idea of the Youth Reparation Court is to send a “short, sharp jolt” to offenders. “We need to show them there are immediate consequences for their vandalism,” she says.

In Waitakere City alone Mrs Donoghue’s Tag Out Trust employs eight full time staff who spend their days removing graffiti.

Both Mayor Harvey and Mrs Donoghue support the general thrust of most of the measures in the Bill, such as limiting the sale of spray cans to those aged 18 or over.

However, he is pushing for a few amendments to the bill, such as raising the maximum fine to $5,000 and adding a clause that makes parents of offenders liable to undertake the sentence if their child is unable to carry it out.

“If the defendant is under 18 and can’t pay the fine or undertake the community service sentence, then the parents or caregivers should be held to account,” he says.

“This will be a strong signal to send to the community that a family must work to change the behaviour of their kids.”
In his submission, Mayor Harvey also calls for ONTRACK to be given greater responsibility for the control and removal of graffiti within the urban rail corridor through the Public Transport Management Bill and for Transit NZ to be able to open motorway graffiti-removal contracts to regional graffiti-removal contractors, such as the Tag Out Trust.

“Citizens should expect a graffiti-free city and all of the Crown’s entities should assist cities in achieving this,” he says.


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