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King: Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism Bill

Annette King

20 June, 2008
Third reading: Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill

I move, that the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill be now read a third time. This Bill takes important action to address New Zealand’s graffiti vandalism problem by strengthening the legal framework for graffiti-related offences.

The Bill amends the Summary Offences Act 1981 by: creating a specific offence for tagging, graffiti vandalism, and defacing; creating a specific offence for possessing graffiti implements in circumstances where it can be reasonably assumed that they are intended to be used to commit a graffiti offence; prohibiting the sale of spray cans to under 18 year olds; and restricting access to spray cans in stores so the public cannot access them without the assistance of a store employee.

The penalties for committing the graffiti vandalism offence are a $2000 fine or community-based sentence, or both. Graffiti and tagging are highly visible forms of vandalism that the community will want quickly addressed. The Bill’s option of community-based sentences, where offenders can clean up the damage that they have caused in communities, is therefore likely to be seen by the community as an appropriate and effective penalty for many offenders.

The Bill does not require retailers to implement expensive, sophisticated security measures to prevent spraycan theft. They must simply ensure spraycans are not accessible in shops without the help of employees. Retailers will also not be left to deal with the requirements of this Bill alone. Support will be available in the form of compliance information and recommended store signage to enable them to comply with the new provisions.

I recognise that legislation alone is not enough to combat the serious problem of tagging and graffiti in New Zealand. That is why the Government has agreed to the core components of the nationwide Stop Tagging Our Place (STOP) Strategy to empower communities and Territorial Local Authorities to act.

The Strategy, due to be considered by the Government by the end of July, will include a range of legislative, strategic and operational components to address graffiti vandalism nationally. This Bill represents the Strategy’s legislative component.

Under the Strategy, the Government has also contributed $6 million over three years to communities and Territorial Local Authorities to establish new or enhance existing anti-tagging and anti-graffiti activities. These activities may include education, prevention, diversion of offenders, improvements to enforcement and prosecutions, and more effective sentencing.

No specific agency has been given responsibility for enforcing the Bill’s provisions. A key feature of effectively enforcing the Bill is keeping enforcement responsibility flexible. It is important that either Police or Territorial Local Authorities can enforce any part of the Bill, whilst having primary responsibility for enforcing certain parts.

This flexibility will enable local prioritisation, collaboration and alignment of enforcement between Police, Territorial Local Authorities and any other government agency that may wish to enforce the Bill’s provisions.

Operationally, I expect Police to be the primary enforcement body for the graffiti vandalism offence. I anticipate the spray can sales and restriction measures will largely be enforced by Territorial Local Authorities with support from Police where necessary. This aspect of the Bill fits more appropriately with Territorial Local Authorities’ regulatory functions and provides a mechanism for them to contribute to the prevention of an offence for which they are often a victim.

Tagging and graffiti is not simply a nuisance activity. It is an invasion of private and public property that is intimidating and antisocial. The majority of the graffiti in our communities cannot be considered art. It is mindless scrawl that causes great financial and emotional costs that the perpetrators care nothing about.

Graffiti vandalism is not only committed by bored individuals. It can have links to gang territoriality and other forms of juvenile delinquency that form the basis of future more serious offending.

By making it more difficult for young people to obtain spray cans and creating a specific offence of graffiti vandalism and possession of graffiti implements, this Bill attempts to stem the flow of young people into more serious offending. This Bill and the STOP Strategy acknowledge the pain suffered by the decent citizens of our country who are subjected to this type of crime.

Over the course of this Bill the Law and Order Select Committee and this House have heard anecdotes of how tagging and graffiti is a real and serious issue in our communities. I would like to thank all submitters for their valuable contributions to the formation of this Bill.

I would also like to acknowledge the time and expertise of officials and members of the House and Law and Order Select Committee who have worked hard to bring this legislation to fruition. I commend the Bill to the House.


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