My endeavours to date have put me in touch with a range of local politicians - Neil Kenzler, Deputy Mayor of Canada Bay Council, Angela D'Amore MP, Member for Dummoyne, The Hon John Murphy MP, Member for Lowe and now Scott Farlow, a Strathfield Councillor and Greg Smith SC MP, Member for Epping, Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Justice Minister.
My humble blog came to the attention of Messrs Farlow and Smith recently, and we arranged a visit to North Strathfield last week to have a look at graffiti in the area. We walked up and down Queen St and compared the rather disastrous state of the Queen St area and the railway reservation with that of the almost pristine area of The Mews, which is just across the tracks.
Scott Farlow explained how Strathfield Council was tackling graffiti, and we had a good look at just how bad things can get when no one takes ownership of an area and ensures that it is taken care of. (Which reminds me - I have to report the area under the motorway to the RTA).
Whilst we were there, we dropped in on one of the businesses on Queen St and had a chat with the owners about their battles with graffiti since they setup shop there in 1995. Their business has been regularly vandalised, and they have been forced to spend around $5,000 installing protective equipment to minimise the damage that the vandals cause. Their premises were vandalised again yesterday, and I will post a photo of the damage if Blogger will ever let me upload it. (Success at last!)
The amazing thing about the visit was that whilst we were chatting away about who was causing all the graffiti, they pointed out the window at a pair of teenagers entering the railway station and told us that one of them was one of the prime culprits. They'd seen the Police talking to him, but apparently no charges have ever been laid, and he is still walking around spraying graffiti with abandon.
What surprised me most is that these businessmen know who the troublemakers are. They can spot them a mile away, having dealt with them previously. On one occasion, one of them was working late and had the office blinds down, and heard a noise outside. They opened the blinds and found that they were looking at a rather shocked teenager not one foot away, spray can in hand.
So whilst most of the literature that I have read to date states that arrests for graffiti are rarely made because the Police don't know who is doing it, it appears that the reality is somewhat different. There are people out there who know exactly who is doing it, but there is a disconnect between the information that they possess and the Police. The Police could possibly make more arrests if they bothered to walk down the street in a badly hit area and simply asked shopkeepers and businesspeople and residents if they had any leads on who they should be talking to.
Our visit to Strathfield may or may not make it into some of the local press. Regardless of what happens, I'm grateful that Mr Farlow and Mr Smith made the time to spend a couple of hours on the ground having a look at the problem and talking to the locals.