Get rid of graffiti - OK
VISUAL POLLUTION: Community Constable, Richard Hurrell alongside yet another example of graffiti that ‘popped up’ on an Alexandra Street walkway at the weekend. 2840701AD
By Grant Johnston
While many residents are doing plenty to beautify Te Awamutu, a minority are rubbishing it through graffiti. Forget any romantic notions about graffiti being the work of talented but frustrated artists - what we are seeing in Te Awamutu on an almost weekly basis is the consistent defacing of public and private property with tagging that has the all the artistic merit of a dog peeing on a wall.
Graffiti is not just thoughtless - it is selfish in the extreme - ‘my right to scribble in spray paint is more important than others’ rights to have their property left in tidy and attractive condition’.
The issue has been raised by residents at public meetings to meet candidates for this month’s local government election - with the two paramount problems being how to prevent graffiti in the first place and how to remove or obscure it once it has appeared (with concerns over how long this can take in some cases).
On the second question the answer is complicated by the fact that Council has no jurisdiction to repair graffiti on private buildings. An attempt is made towards rapid remedy when the tagging is on public property and there is an arrangement in place between Council and Waipa Networks in relation to the latter’s property - but removing the graffiti from private buildings is up to the owner and especially in the case of absentee landlords, can take considerably longer.
There were two thrusts to answers from candidates to the issue of preventing graffiti in the first place - Community Constable Richard Hurrell and councillor Hazel Barnes said the community patrols and police were having some success in identifying the culprits, with public assistance welcomed. Video evidence gathered by the community patrols was valuable.
Police say they would always look to prosecute offenders, or if youths were involved, making them accountable and if appropriate have them paint out the damage they caused. However, apprehending offenders for graffiti often proves difficult and the Police rely on information from the public. There was a possibility that closed circuit cameras could be placed in the CBD to identify offenders.
Current councillor Graham Jull said a register of spray paint cans sold might assist with identifying offenders.
Youth worker, Anthony Campbell said rather than focussing on ‘catching the baddies’, the problem really revolved around tackling youth frustration issues - giving youth pride in themselves and their community. Mr Campbell and others, mainly from local Christian communities are working towards building a youth centre for Te Awamutu.
One resident recently outlined his concerns about tagging in a Letter to the Editor (unable to be printed because no name was supplied): “I came to live in this town about four years ago from Europe. I was very impressed by the impression the town gave me and my family. A very clean, beautiful town which we were proud to be living in,” he said. “However, of late, this has changed due to the increasing amount of tagging that seems to be absolutely everywhere.”
Te Awamutu’s Safer Community Trust is considering a project involving Resene where old paint is recycled and made available for graffiti paint over. If you want to help with this keep your old paint and watch future Couriers for details of when and where collections will be conducted.
Whether the real answer lies in surveillance security or provision of a positive alternative, moves are definitely afoot to curb the proliferation of graffiti visually polluting the local landscape.