How communities win the tagging game
Graffiti can be found on walls, fences, park benches, bus shelters and just about anywhere else where it will be guaranteed a public viewing of sorts.
Even the nation’s trains are not immune and it can be anything from a handwritten, spray-painted or etched scrawl to a vibrant, colourful artistic expression.
Some graffiti is legal and sophisticated enough to be regarded as street art. Other examples are categorised as straight-out vandalism.
Vandalism is linked to crime and compromised public safety – three things you are unlikely to want associated with your neighbourhood. So, what can you do? Here are three ways you can help to prevent graffiti, aka tagging, vandalism in your neighbourhood.
1. Report it. Many councils have rapid removal strategies in place that aim to get rid of tags within 24 hours of it being phoned in.
Some research suggests graffiti removal isn’t a deterrent to offenders but there are also results of quick action around the country that suggest otherwise. A tag doesn’t generally give its creator any lasting satisfaction if it is repeatedly painted out.
You can report graffiti by contacting police or your local council. The Keep New Zealand Beautiful charitable trust is dedicated to keeping communities clean and safe. It has branches and volunteers throughout the country and is also keen to know where hotspots are. Call yours in on 0800 TIDY NZ.
2. You can phone the same number if you want to ‘adopt a spot’ in your neighbourhood and keep it graffiti-free.
Keep New Zealand Beautiful provides volunteers with a free toolkit equipped with rags, a spray bottle, remover solvent, paint, brush, roller, gloves and more.
Ask around to find out where the local graffiti hot spots are and rally together to keep them tagfree.
3. Get creative. There are a range of reasons why graffiti is irresistible to some people and why certain spots attract repeat attention. Research undertaken for the Ministry of Justice in 2009 found that graffiti can be an expression of youth wanting to break free of social constraint, and the places they choose are often ripe for creative play. By this token, simply cleaning the ‘canvas’ doesn’t promise the spot won’t see graffiti again.
Why not explore creative ways of addressing the issue? It could be turned into an opportunity for a community initiative to bring beauty and art to your neighbourhood, with permission.
Resene has a PaintWise programme that gives away free paint to community groups right across the country and applications can be made at resene.co.nz. Keep New Zealand Beautiful also helps to organise events such as school mural competitions during its Graffitifree week in March.
A community united in its vision might even look at permitting dedicated graffiti areas that are open to use by anyone – or commissioning artists to paint murals.
Canvas your neighbourhood and see what others around you think. Get police and council representatives on board. You may well be able to turn a negative into a positive.
Rapid removal strategies appear to deliver good results in the war against graffiti.