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Government Cracks Down On Tagging

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister of New Zealand
Hon Annette King
Minister of Justice, Minister of Police

15 February 2008 Embargoed until 10.30am Media Statement

Government Cracks Down On Tagging

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Police and Justice Minister Annette King announced today a government crackdown on tagging and other forms of graffiti vandalism.

Helen Clark said that tagging is no mere nuisance crime.

“Tagging is a destructive crime and represents an invasion of private and public property.

“Its presence in an area also contributes to fears that the place is not safe. That too is destructive of communities,” Helen Clark said.

The Labour-led Government’s crackdown, backed by the Stop Tagging Our Place (STOP) Strategy, will see:

* A new offence for tagging and graffiti vandalism in the Summary Offences Act, and increased fines and/or effective community sentences.

“Until now, offenders have been merely charged with ‘defacing’, with a maximum fine of $200.

“Now the maximum fine will be $2,000 and/or a community-based sentence.

“That sentence will enable judges to require offenders to undertake community work which puts right the wrong they’ve done, like cleaning up tagging and graffiti vandalism in their own communities,” Helen Clark and Annette King said.

* Banning the sale of spraycans of paint to those under the age of eighteen

“Most taggers are in their teens, and we intend to make it much harder for them to access their tools of vandalism.

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“Restricting access will also help prevent young people becoming part of the tagging sub-culture,” Helen Clark said.

A person who sells spraycans to under-eighteens will commit an offence punishable by a fine of up to $1500.

Shopkeepers will also be required to keep spraycans secured so that people cannot access them without the help of shop staff. Shopkeepers who fail to secure spraycans will be committing an offence and be liable to a fine of up to $1500.

* New funding for anti-tagging and anti-graffiti vandalism initiatives:

$6 million is available over the next three years ($2 million per annum) to support community action to combat this vandalism. Of this:

- $800,000 per annum goes to the Graffiti Vandalism Small Initiatives Fund. Grants of up to $20,000 each will be available for NGOs, iwi, and local authorities for anti-graffiti vandalism initiatives in local areas. These grants are intended for smaller organisations or smaller population areas with limited problems.

- $1 million per annum goes to the Graffiti Vandalism Contestable Fund available to local government. It will support larger scale programmes with a city or district wide approach.

- $200,000 per annum will be available for use for restorative justice for victims of tagging and graffiti vandalism and the offenders responsible.

* The STOP Strategy will support targeted law enforcement by police in tagging hot spots. This includes drawing on the 250 extra Community Police Officers who will be in the force by 2009.

* The Government is seeking further input to the STOP Strategy before finalising it.

An Advisory Group is to be appointed and will include local government representation, NGOs, and government agencies responsible for the rail track and highways. The nationwide strategy will be considered by Cabinet by July.

Helen Clark and Annette King said that the Labour-led Government is determined to partner with communities to deal to taggers and graffiti vandalism.

“We look forward to working with local government and community groups to combat this destructive behaviour in our communities,” Helen Clark and Annette King said.


STOP Strategy

Stop Tagging Our Place

Graffiti vandalism is the intentional unlawful defacing of property with writing, markings or graphics. Tagging, a form of graffiti vandalism, is the writing of a stylised signature on a wall or other property, and is the most common form of graffiti vandalism in New Zealand.

The Government views graffiti vandalism as a serious problem affecting our country; one that has a considerable impact on New Zealand's public spaces.

Graffiti can create the perception in the public that 'tagged' areas are unsafe and can contribute to the deterioration of the quality of life in certain neighbourhoods.

The Government is establishing legislation to combat tagging and graffiti vandalism throughout New Zealand. A tagging and graffiti offence will be established in the Summary Offences Act 1981. This offence will have a sentence of a fine of up to $2,000 or a community based sentence. The Bill also prohibits the sale of spray paint to those under the age of 18 and requires retailers to store spray paint under their control in order to reduce the problem of the theft of this favoured tagging tool.

In addition, a fund of $6m over three years has been established to support local communities and councils to establish new or additional anti-tagging activity.

The Ministry of Justice’s Crime Prevention Unit has developed the core content of an anti-tagging and graffiti vandalism strategy, known as Stop Tagging Our Place (STOP). The STOP Strategy will provide the foundation for a nation-wide approach to prevent tagging and graffiti vandalism.

The core content of the STOP strategy will be further developed and finalised by the Ministry of Justice in conjunction with an Advisory Group to ensure the experience and knowledge of local practitioners is built into the strategy. Representatives of the following groups and agencies will be invited to join the Advisory Group: Local Council representatives; Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ); the Housing New Zealand Corporation; Ontrack, Transit and a number of non-government organisations, such as Keep New Zealand Beautiful.

The first meeting of this group is expected in March and the consultative development phase will take four months.

The strategy is still in development but the legislative change and funding will take place immediately. They will both form core aspects of the final strategy.

The core content of the STOP Strategy is outlined below.


STOP Strategy


The STOP Strategy will include amendments to national legislation. The proposed Bill includes the establishment of specific graffiti vandalism and tagging offence in the Summary Offences Act, with a penalty of a fine of up to $2,000 or a community based sentence. A key aim of this amendment is to increase the use of community work orders as a sanction for tagging.

The legislation will include provisions to prohibit the sale of spraycans to those under the age of 18 and to ensure spraycans are held under the control of the retailer to reduce shop theft.

Further options for legislative change will be considered through the development and lifespan of the STOP Strategy.


Restriction of Sale of Spray Paint

The restriction of the sale of spray paint will reduce the opportunity for existing taggers to access their preferred tool. Equally importantly, it will help to prevent younger people from becoming the taggers of tomorrow.

Situational Crime Prevention

The use of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design methods and graffiti eradication programmes will be supported as will other situational prevention options including utilising anti-graffiti paint etc.

Other Prevention Programmes

A review of anti-graffiti education programmes will be undertaken and youth and diversion programmes such as mural and ‘public art’ projects will be considered. The cost benefit of an advertising campaign will be considered and a best practice website will be developed to support local efforts. Training will also be made available at a regional level. Research, as needed, will also be undertaken.

Enforcement and Sentencing

The Strategy will support a targeted plan for enforcement in tagging hot spots to ensure consistent prioritisation with New Zealand Police. This includes drawing on the 250 additional Community Police officers which will be in place by 2009.

The use of enforcement databases will be supported. These tools enable the collection of information on the extent of taggers’ activity and support both enforcement and prosecution.

A range of effective responses to graffiti vandalism and tagging already exist within the youth justice system and these are to be supported and continued.

In the adult jurisdiction, community work is an appropriate response to graffiti and tagging as it provides an opportunity for offenders to ‘right their wrong’ and clean graffiti from the local community.

The Strategy includes trialling the more intensively managed use of ‘clean up’ work parties of offenders with a view to broadening this out nationally if feasible.

Funding will also be made available for the extended use of restorative justice for victims of graffiti vandalism and tagging and the offenders responsible.


The Government is committing $6 million over the next 3 years to support local councils and community groups to undertake community based anti-tagging initiatives.

Funding will be available via a small grants round and a larger contestable funding regime. Funding will be aimed at assisting groups to provide ‘added value’ to existing projects or to develop new programmes to assist local communities to wipe out graffiti vandalism across New Zealand.

Anti-Graffiti Action & the STOP Strategy

Media Questions and Answers

What does this new Bill do?
The Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill has two aspects: the establishment of a specific tagging and graffiti vandalism offence and the restriction of sale of spray paints.

* Establishes a new specific graffiti and tagging offence. Many offenders are currently charged with ‘defacing’. Many offenders were previously charged with the crime of ‘defacing’. This term means nothing to ordinary New Zealanders and this proposed new offence clarifies the actual behaviour. The penalty for ‘defacing’ was a $200 fine and the new penalty is a $2,000 fine or a community based sentence.

* This enables Judges to require the offender to undertake a community based sentence such as Community Work in which the offender may be required to clean up graffiti as part of their sentence.

The restriction of sale aspect of the Bill prohibits the sale of spray paint cans to people under 18 years of age and requires spray paint to be under the control of the shopkeeper to minimise its possible theft from shop premises.
Is the increase in sentence enough to stop people committing graffiti offences?
It is important that offenders recognise the impact this offence has on ordinary New Zealanders. People who have experienced graffiti on their property are likely to agree that a community based sentence, for example a Community Work sentence, where the offender is required to right the wrong they have done their community by cleaning graffiti off the walls, is an appropriate response.

To maximise the impact of this new sentence, the Department of Corrections is reviewing the way Community Work is currently used to clean up graffiti vandalism.

Why is this new offence required? What will it add to the current response?

Tagging and graffiti vandalism can be dealt with in both the Youth and Adult jurisdictions under existing legislation. Under the current legislation offenders can be charged with either Defacing, Wilful Damage or Intentional Damage.

This proposed new Graffiti offence establishes a specific crime of graffiti and tagging and lifts the minimum sentence. There is no need to lift the maximum response as an offender charged with Intentional Damage can already be sentenced to up to 7 years in prison and a prison sentence is also possibly under the offence of Wilful Damage.

The Youth jurisdiction already has a range of options for dealing with youth graffiti vandalism and so changes to current sentences in that area are not being proposed. The new sentence for older offenders strengthens our existing options and crucially allows for community based sentences.

Why does the legislation only focus on spray paint?

The majority of graffiti is done using spray paint. Spray paint is very quick to apply, highly visible and difficult to remove. It is the chosen ‘tool’ of the tagger.

Why will restricting the sale of spraycans to people under 18 years of age help?

According to our available knowledge, the majority of taggers are in their teens and people tend to start tagging early in their life.

The proposed interventions may not stop hardened graffiti vandals but it will make it a great deal more difficult for them to access their chosen ‘tool’.

Restricting access is also expected to help prevent younger people from entering the ‘tagging culture’.

Will this turn those currently using spray paint to other types of graffiti?

It has been suggested that spray paint taggers will all start scratching glass or using marker pens. However, tagging has its own internal boundaries and ‘culture’. As spray paint is the chosen tool of this ‘culture’ it is expected that the movement to other types of graffiti implement will be small and we would expect to see an overall reduction in graffiti.

How will the new legislation impact on Police Resources?

The Government has previously announced the addition of 250 new Community Police officers to the New Zealand police by 2009. These new officers will work closely with the community and with young people and will help to create a major impact on tagging and graffiti in the coming years.

How much funding will be available through the STOP Strategy?
The government is committing a total of $15 million over the next five years to tackling graffiti.

$6 million will be available over the next three years ($2 million per year) to support local action on graffiti. It is expected that 50-60 projects will be funded each year. After this time the needs of communities will be re-evaluated.

The remaining funding will support government action, the management of the external funding and the establishment and delivery of the STOP Strategy on a national scale.

This new funding will supplement that already committed by central and local government to combat graffiti vandalism.

Who is the funding for and how do people get it?
There will be two types of funding available: first a small initiatives fund for community groups and those local government areas with more limited problems and second; a contestable fund for larger projects where the problem is greater or where more than one area works together to tackle the problem regionally.

The scale and nature of graffiti is not consistent across New Zealand and the aim of the two stream funding approach is to meet varying needs. It also avoids smaller areas having to compete with the biggest areas for the same money.

The small initiatives round will be for applications up to $20,000 and the larger contestable round will be more open dependant upon the scale of the problem. A limited fund is available and it may be the case that not all applications will receive funding.

The funds are both available for application now and those interested can find information on the Ministry of Justice’s, Crime Prevention Unit website at

What will it fund?

The funding will be available for new programmes to combat tagging. The fund is to add to, rather than replace, any existing activity.

Local areas will identify their own needs but examples of what may be funded include:

* Local government, Police and others working in partnership to establish city wide or regional action plans to reduce graffiti,

* Supporting local community groups and volunteer programmes establish or extend local projects to prevent and clean off graffiti

* The use of graffiti databases to improve the enforcement of graffiti legislation and the prosecution of offenders

* Targeting graffiti hot spots using murals to prevent tagging or mobile CCTV to catch graffiti vandals in the act

* Improved urban design based on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles to reduce opportunities for graffiti. This could include something as simple as the planting of spiny bushes in front of heavily tagged walls.

Links between Restorative Justice and Graffiti?

Restorative Justice provides an opportunity for a victim of tagging or graffiti vandalism to meet with the offender (where the victim chooses to and the offender pleads guilty and agrees to be involved) and agree an appropriate response to the offence. An agreement could include cleaning the graffiti off the victim’s property.

Funding will also be made available to extend the use of restorative justice for victims of graffiti and the offenders responsible. This funding will be available via the Ministry of Justice’s Crime Prevention Unit to existing funded providers of adult restorative justice services and will be provided in consultation with those local groups.

The STOP Strategy

What does STOP stand for?
STOP stands for Stop Tagging Our Place.
What is the STOP Strategy?
In addition to the establishment of an Advisory Group, to ensure that the national strategy to meet the needs of local communities, the Ministry of Justice will be working with representatives of a range of local government and non-government organisations to enhance and complete the strategy. It is expected to be drafted for Cabinet approval in July.

In addition to the legislation outlined above, core components of the strategy are expected to include:

* Establishing a comprehensive approach to ridding New Zealand of graffiti vandalism and tagging through education, prevention, diversion of offenders, improvements to enforcement and prosecutions and more effective sentencing

* The establishment of a best practice website

* Reviewing and enhancing knowledge about the prevention of graffiti through education and conducting other research to better understand the problem

* Improvements to the ‘clean up’ of graffiti by offenders on Community Work sentences

* A funding package to support community and local government efforts in combating graffiti vandalism,

* The delivery of regional training events on tagging

This is in addition to the legislation detailed above.

Who will be on the Advisory Group?
Proposed membership of the advisory group includes: representation from Local Councils, Local Government New Zealand, Ontrack, Transit and a number of non-government organisations, such as Keep New Zealand Beautiful. Len Brown, Mayor of Manukau City, has been invited to chair the Advisory Group.

Who will decide who is on the Advisory Group?
Approaches will be made to key stakeholder groups asking for nomination of a suitable representative.

Why have the launch in Manukau?
Manukau City is among the local authorities who are heavily committed to ridding their community of tagging and graffiti vandalism. Having the launch in Manukau is recognition of this commitment.
Why is a national strategy needed?
There is a high level of concern among local communities about tagging and graffiti vandalism. While many communities are attempting to combat this problem it appears that greater coordination and resourcing of efforts is required.

The proposed STOP Strategy will combine a range of approaches and interventions into a comprehensive, nation-wide strategy and will encourage and support new and innovative research and responses.


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