One voter says, ‘Hi, when I show people around Wellington I feel really ashamed of how our beautiful city has been covered in graffiti.’ And she is right. So what can we do?
I responded in an email:
You are right, and believe it or not, $500,000 of our rates are going toward the cleaning and we’ve little to show for it. It’s worsened over the last few years.
There are some basic things we can do, but they won’t stop the problem. Let me get those out of the way first, just out of completeness’ sake, because residents have told me they’d like to see these in place.
Spray paint buyers could provide ID when buying, and I notice Eastern Ward council candidate Sarah Free proposes that sellers should even record the colour and date of purchase. I’d certainly support a bylaw for the ID requirement.
Shop owners are telling me that it’s not just graffiti, it’s glass-scratchers. They’re going to huge expense replacing the glass.
I understand from police that it’s difficult to identify the offenders but the few that we do catch, I support having them come and clean up their own mess along with doing community service.
Now, all of the above are things we can do after the fact. What we really need to do is make sure young people (most taggers are 22–23) don’t commit these crimes in the first place.
So here are my solutions.
It’s no surprise that this happens more during a recession. Two main reasons these young people spray graffiti are: creativity (21·6 per cent); and believing in “celebrity” (15·7 per cent).
This is why I emphasized youth in some of my policies. I put these in to my manifesto back in April, three to four months before my opponents even had theirs. Youth unemployment is shockingly high in Wellington—if you only look at 15–19, it’s 25 per cent. But if we provide them with apprenticeships (Dunedin City Council is already doing this) and internships, then they will be able to see that they can have a proper career path.
Wellington businesses are telling me they are finding it hard to get talent, including the creative industries, and if some of these taggers are frustrated creatives or people who want their name “in lights”, let’s make them do things that benefit our economy.
I’d rather spend [a chunk of] the $500,000 on the apprenticeship programme instead. I mention this as I’m not one to make election promises that we can’t pay for as a city.
We publicize these programmes and we must include those that have an artistic component to them, and target the areas in our city that fall foul to graffiti the most.
We recognize their issue that there aren’t jobs, and show them that they can apply their talents legitimately. Those businesses that want artists can get them; and the young people understand they can have a future.
It’s not a perfect solution, but I’m all about targeting root causes rather than applying Band-Aids.
This has the added effect of stopping some of the drunkenness as well—which is also socioeconomic and partly cultural—so we have a more palatable Courtenay Place and entertainment district. In effect, all this leads to a more presentable, liveable and prouder city.