What a great turnout for last weeks paint out day was. Good to see more youths there than adults helping to clean graffiti which is encouraging and sends a clear message to their peers that’s is not ok to tag.
It doesn’t matter how you see graffiti – whether you consider it as a form of art or as vandalism – there’s no denying is seems to be in abundance.
Several Illawarra businesses and community groups have previously expressed their frustration over repeatedly having to scrub back painted markings and tags from both public and private property. Particularly though, the concern lies with what seems to be an inability to catch the culprits who are adamant about marking their territory.
Well now, authorities are hoping the key to catching the elusive taggers could be as simple as heading online. The NSW Police have launched a new graffiti registry, designed to assist in tracking down and charging local taggers.
The system is called VandalTrak and is an online log where reports or photographs of graffiti can be uploaded by the general public. Police investigators are able to access the data in real-time, in the first step to finding the person(s) responsible.
Senior Sergeant Greg Mahon from the Lake Illawarra Local Area Command says the removal and reporting of graffiti is the best way to stop offenders.”What this system does is it allows us to catalogue those tags and identify hot-spot areas.”It also allows us to identify multiple tags for individual offenders, so that when we do catch them we can – instead of charging them with one offense, we can charge them with fifty.” Snr Sgt Mahon says it is imperative people report tags and other markings.
“The community are our eyes and ears and we can’t solve crime without them,” he said. “VandalTrak takes this to a whole new level.” Anyone can access VandalTrak and Snr Sgt Mahon says it’s simple to use, but will be a huge help to local authorities and communities wanting to clean-up the area.
Diluted … Barry O’Farrell has been forced to water down his graffiti bill. Photo: Quentin Jones
THE NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, was yesterday forced to water down his graffiti bill to get it through Parliament almost a year after it was introduced.
The government supported an amendment by the Shooters and Fishers Party that removed a provision to strip young people of their driver’s licences for graffiti offences.
The bill had stalled after Shooters and Fishers Party MPs sided with the Greens in the upper house in August last year to amend the original version.
Under the original bill, all young graffiti vandals would have faced court and could have lost their driver’s licence. Asked last year, Mr O’Farrell said he would ”use every possible option” to pass the bill.
The government last week rejected a call by the upper house for a free conference, which would have seen 10 MPs from each house of Parliament try to resolve the deadlock.
The Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said the new laws would require juvenile graffiti vandals to appear before the court for a graffiti offence, give courts the power to extend the time graffiti offenders spend on learner or provisional licences and limit the number of demerit points they are able to accrue over a specific period.
“Anyone can phone the hotline to report graffiti in NSW and callers can remain anonymous if they are concerned for their privacy and safety,” Mr Fraser said.
“After receiving a report, hotline operators will send the information to the Government agency or local council responsible for cleaning it up.”
Mr Fraser ridiculed the notion that taggers and others who deface property without permission were “artists”.
“They might like to think of themselves as artists, but they are really vandals who show no respect for other people’s property,” Mr Fraser said.
Mr Fraser said the hotline delivered on an election promise and would form a key part of the NSW Government’s strategy to reduce the impact of graffiti on local communities.
The O’Farrell Government has also funded clean-up squads run by Rotary and other community groups and is working with local councils on reducing graffiti.
“Each year, graffiti attacks cost the state more than $100 million, and State Rail alone spends more than $50 million alone cleaning up trains,” Mr Fraser said.
“This is money the Government would prefer to be spending on our schools, libraries and roads.
“Graffiti is a scourge on our community and the cause of great anger for people who take pride in their surroundings.”
The Graffiti Hotline will also help authorities focus on locations that most often under attack
A $500 reward will be introduced for people who report graffiti vandals in an attempt to curb the scourge, which costs South Australian ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
The State Government says the money will be handed over to people whose information leads to convictions.
Attorney-General John Rau says vandals often have distinct tags that make them identifiable, and many people know who they are.
He says the cost of removing graffiti is a huge burden on councils and businesses.
“Council rates in every local government area in South Australia are being inflated to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up the mess,” he said.
“These people as I understand it regard these tags as, if you like, a signature. They put them around the place in the same was as a dog makes a mark.
“I don’t care where they live, in what suburb. I don’t care what sort of job they’ve got or whether they’ve got a job. They’re idiots.”
The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates the cost of graffiti vandalism at $300 million a year nationally.
The Graffiti Rewards Program follow the introduction of increased maximum penalties for those caught illegally using spray cans of up to $5000 or a year in prison.
Police say there has been a slight reduction in graffiti vandalism in the past year.