Monday, July 14, 2008

Summary of graffiti findings to date for Canada Bay

Over the last two weeks, I have travelled to various corners of the City of Canada Bay and observed a large amount of graffiti in its many and varied horrid forms.

Council has been working from the following set of statistics, and I feel that I can now offer some comment on them.

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

732 incidents of graffiti removed equates to 52 per month, or a bit over 2.5 per working day.  Since an "incident" is not defined, I will assume that it refers to a single site or set of premises.  For example, removing 20 tags on a community centre might be counted as a single incident, even if those tags were applied on 20 different days.

I think I can safely say that in my various forays around our suburbs, I have spotted at least 100 separate "incidents" using this definition, and possibly more.  Although I have photographed a lot of them, I have by no means photographed the lot.  I only took photos of the most egregious examples, or those that I could photograph without risking being run over by a car.

In other words, I spotted a few months worth of work in a couple of hours, and my survey did not take me to every suburb, or every likely graffiti target area in each suburb.  

As an example, I drove along Lyons Rd this morning from the corner of Victoria Rd to the corner of Great North Rd - a distance of about 2.5km.  I spotted graffiti on 34 separate buildings or bits of street furniture (and I included two defaced delivery trucks).  And that was the graffiti that I spotted whilst driving at 60km/h down a rough, bumpy road in busy morning traffic - and it only included the graffiti that I could see in front of me - I know that there are instances of graffiti along that section that can only be seen from the opposite direction.

So there are probably 50 graffiti "incidents" along one stretch of road - one month's worth of reporting at current reporting rates.

My conclusion is that the 732 reported incidents vastly underestimates the problem in our council area.  That is not the fault of the Council - if businesses or residents won't report it, there isn't much that Council can do about it, unless Council wants to start sending someone out with a clipboard and camera to start recording every instance they see.

I had a look at the stats on the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research today and downloaded all the crime stats by local government area, then selected only the malicious damage to property column.  For 2007, 107,530 offenses are recorded, of which 581 occurred in Canada Bay.  That puts Canada Bay at number 92 out of 156 Councils.  The worst was Blacktown, with 5053 offenses.  The average was 689 offenses, and the median 402.

Lord Howe Island reported 0 malicious damage offenses.  Bombala was next lowest with 19.

Lane Cove, which I visited last week and thought was quite messy, comes in at number 69 with 275 reported offenses.

I am assuming of course that malicious damage equates to graffiti, or includes graffiti as a sub-component.

Now if I can spot that many incidents in five minutes in one section of road in one part of our Council area, then I think it's safe to say that we should take the reported statistics with a pinch of salt.

I noticed yesterday for instance at 9am that there was a tag on the Newsagent in Five Dock.  Two hours later, it was gone - the owner or manager there is clearly on the ball.  What are the chances that they bothered to report it?  I'd say about zero.  They simply clean it up and move on.

Similarly, the NAB branch has been cleaned three times in the last month or so - how many of those incidents would have made it into the BOCARS system?  Unless NAB have a strict policy of reporting every incident, I'd say they sailed past BOCARS without leaving a mark.

The breakdown of the Council stats is a telling factor in how much (or how little) is being reported.  

  • 63% removed from Council property
  • 24% removed from private property
  • 11% removed from commercial property
The drive down Lyons Rd that revealed 34 separate incidents could be broken down as follows:

  • 0% observed on Council property
  • 50% observed on private property
  • 50% observed on commercial property
I am guessing about the 50% breakdown between private and commercial, but I am pretty sure that there was not a single vandalised Council asset along Lyons Rd.  Council staff are being diligent about reporting damage to Council property, but housing residents and business owners are not.  Either they are not aware that the Council has such a system, or they can't be bothered using it.

This is why I suggested to Council that their graffiti reporting system needs two improvements - a web based form, and the ability to upload photos.  It needn't be any more complicated to use than the software that I use to create this blog (and upload photos).  If I can upload a hundred or more photos in short order, then surely Council can buy or build something that does the same.  I realise that there will be businesses that don't have a PC on the premises (such as a hairdressers or newsagent), but show me someone under the age of 25 these days that doesn't have a mobile phone with an inbuilt camera.  Photos can always be uploaded from home.

I also think Council needs to conduct some random snap surveys of the known hot spots (all they need to do is read this blog) in order to build up a map or picture of the types of premises or assets that are being hit.  

The results of such a survey might make a lot of people change their minds as to the seriousness of the problem in our Council area.

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