Sarah Free: Graffiti takes a financial and emotional toll

Green Party candidate for the Eastern Ward Sarah Free has proposed 3 solutions to curb tagging in Wellington.

I live in a neighbourhood which is subject to tagging. A few weeks ago four neighbours had their garage doors tagged. We all pulled together, took time out of what we’d otherwise planned to do and quickly removed the evidence. All was well until last week, when another garage door was tagged. This time the autograph was a metre long and just about as high, done with in dark red spray paint. Removing this tag took a whole bottle of meths and two hours of intensive labour.

I’m standing for Council in the Eastern Ward and I’ve talked to residents who have had letter boxes, sides of houses, fences, garages, power poles, etc all repeatedly autographed.This kind of mindless and repeated damage really takes its toll, both financially and emotionally.

I’ve talked to council staff, the police, and paint retailers about this, and I’ve got a few ideas.

Firstly, a  lot of damage is done with spray paint. People purchasing spray paint already have to provide ID, as its illegal to sell to those under 18 years of age.  I’d like to see the brand, paint colour and date of purchase recorded against the customers name and address. Then when there’s a tag, the police could check the colour against a register of recent purchases. This would work even better if purchasers had to leave a deposit, refundable when they return the can. This would encourage all legitimate users to get their jobs done swiftly, and get off the register.

Secondly, I’d like the public to be encouraged to report all tags, no matter how small. Wellington City Council has a great new FIXIT app, where you can send in a photo of stuff that needs fixing. Why not add tagging to this so that a record can be kept, and a pattern of offences established? The thing I cant understand is that taggers are essentially leaving their signature, so why isn’t it easier to find out who they are?

Thirdly, I’d involve taggers in the cleanup process, and not only cleaning up tagging, but other community projects as well. It would be great to think that the community could get alongside these people and motivate their energies and talents to better uses.

All reasonable and easily implemented ideas. Nice to see a Green candidate not proposing banning something :-). Here’s an example of the graffiti around the Eastern Ward.

Picture 1

8 responses to “Sarah Free: Graffiti takes a financial and emotional toll

  1. … I totally thought this was going to be about her having a cry over people tagging her hoardings lol!

  2. I’m all for cracking down on graffiti, but I have to make realistic observations that I have learnt whilst fighting tagging. Most retailers I know do an excellent job of enforcing existing laws. However, a lot of tagging is done by those under the age of 18 – who should not be able to buy the paint in the first place. They often get around this by getting spray paint & paint marker pens off Trademe, or from other taggers around NZ. It would be a lot of resources to try and match paint to purchase records from retailers, when it is often not the purchaser doing the tagging. It is also evidence that does not stack up for prosecution – so would end up a waste of resources, and an extra unnecessary burden on the retailer.

    The next issue is that a lot of taggers are essentially too young to prosecute. The most you can hope for is a family conference in many cases – and to get to that stage requires a lot of police resources, and is more often than not a complete waste of time. My experience is that you cannot hope to prosecute a tagger unless you physically catch them in the act with witnesses for EACH tag. I caught one on camera tagging my building with his hood up (face hidden) – immediately after he had tagged 8 other buildings. I recognized the tag & the tagger instantly (a prolific local tagger), compiled all the camera evidence & photo evidence of all the tags (“SLOW” in bright orange) from the other buildings, put all the paperwork together on behalf of local businesses and got the paperwork signed by the other business owners. I took it all to the cops – but the prosecution was unsuccessful because he said “It wasn’t me” and the camera footage could not make out his face in enough detail. This is why many businesses give up – WAY too much paperwork & time for very little results.

    Thirdly, the most serious form of tagging is the glass scratching. At a cost of between $500-$800 per window to get scratching removed, one tagger can do phenomenal monetary damage in a very short space of time. At the end of the day, paint can be painted over or removed at very little overall cost – but the glass scratching can destroy a business. I’ve had scratched glass on my own business for 18 months. At $700 removal cost, it is not a cost my business can afford. This is after my landlord removed 3 other lots in the previous 18 months at $2100 cost.

    Can I suggest small monetary rewards for eyewitness information leading to the successful prosecution of taggers – throw a couple of hundred dollars at them and they’d dob each other in like moths to a flame. More than that, they would get suspicious of their mates, so the amount of graffiti would drop considerably. Then concentrate on the clean up and flick them the bill.

  3. Hi Steve, thanks for the additional insights here- agree that glass scratching is another (and hugely costly) issue. The monetary rewards could be a useful tool in combination with other approaches.

  4. Hi Sarah, I was googling graffiti in Wellington and and came across your blog. I caught a guy tagging our garage in the early hours of 14th September, I followed him whilst calling Police, in that time I witnessed him tagging about 8 properties before he was arrested. I have since seen more of his tags in the Mt Cook/Newtown area. I hope he can be traced back to all of his tags and goes down for each one!

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