Saturday, June 28, 2008

Canada Bay graffiti management strategy

Canada Bay Council is working on a graffiti management strategy, and it is at the stage where the Council is talking to local businesses about what the strategy involves and what else should be included in it.

I attended a workshop this week, and came away quite impressed.

First the bad news - Council sent invitations out to 1,000 businesses in the area, and 1% showed up.  I don't find that surprising - there are very few real leaders in any population, and I've generally found through experience that you're lucky to find more than 2% in any group of people.

The good news is that a lot of information was exchanged at the meeting, and I'm hoping that the Council reps went away with some more good ideas.  The strategy was certainly viewed as a positive thing, and I was pleased that no one stood up and attacked the Council - things always go downhill when some nutter jumps up and starts abusing the people that are trying to fix the problem.

A disappointing note is that although the Police were invited, and supposedly accepted, no one actually turned up.  

Here's some stats that I found interesting (and I am lifting this straight from the Council handouts):
  • 75% of graffiti writers are under 18
  • 64% males under 18
  • From a variety of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds
  • Linked to hip hop culture
  • Linked to respect amongst peers, self recognition and credibility
  • linked to boredom
Canada Bay is ranked 137th out of 143 NSW Councils (although I thought there were 152 Councils in NSW).

In the 14 months between 1 Jan 2007 and 1 March 2008:
  • 732 incidents removed
  • 93% were tags
  • 86% applied with paint, 13% with marker pens
  • 34% in Five Dock, 29% Concord and 11% Drummoyne
  • 63% removed from Council property
  • 24% removed from private property
  • 11% removed from commercial property
These stats generated quite a bit of discussion.  For starters, this only covers graffiti that was reported to Council.  The 11% removed from commercial property probably reflects the presumption that business owners take care of cleaning up their own property most of the time, and rarely bring Council into the matter.  They just clean it up and don't bother reporting it.

A Drummoyne resident disputed the statistic that his suburb rated so low on the list, but it was pointed out that this simply reflected what was reported.  If residents don't report it, it won't show up in the figures.  

I think everyone found that only 732 incidents reported over 14 months was laughably low, but that number simply measures how active people are in reporting graffiti, rather than how active people are in spraying it.  A lot of discussion then took place regarding how to get the message out to residents to report graffiti to Council.  

I made the point that the Police probably won't appreciate that, as it will drive up the reported crime figures, and someone will collect some heat from head office over that.  However, the local Police Command might also take graffiti a bit more seriously if they start getting murdered by the statistics.  Their performance is judged on how well they manage their numbers, and if the stats get worse, they'll be out of a job.  Police managers, like many managers, will only focus on what they can measure, and they take their cue from the numbers.  If the numbers are bad, they'll get attention.  If you know how the bureaucracy is motivated, you can use it to your advantage.

One suggestion was that the Council has to make it easier for people to report graffiti.  The Canada Bay website has an online form for just about everything - except graffiti.  A form is required, and it has to accept the uploading of photos.  Many people have a camera phone these days, and even more have a digital camera.  Taking a photo has never been easier - we just have to start making use of the technology.

Council is adopting a CPTED strategy, which stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.  I take it that this means that you design your buildings or infrastructure to make them difficult to vandalise.  A case in point is that the RTA has planted creepers on the rear side of the noise barriers along the City West Link.  Graffiti is only found in the spaces where the creeper is not growing.  

So, how do we get the message out to local residents and businesses?

Well, if you live or own a business in the Canada Bay area, my suggestion is that you attend the next information session that the Council holds.  

Alternatively, you can contact the Economic Development staff at Canada Bay Council.

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