Monday, September 29, 2008

Mortlake Primary School

The school itself is free of graffiti, but the surrounds are not - particularly the 40km/h school speed signs.

This sort of thing really irks me, because this school probably has 20-30 teachers and admin staff, and I guess some of them at least drive past these signs every day.  Yet they have been like this for months, and they send a powerful message to impressionable young minds - graffiti is ok.  If it wasn't ok, the Principal would have ensured that it was removed months ago.

I've reported these to the RTA and asked for a cleanup.

Bus shelter - Wareemba

Reported via the Council's new-fangled web system.

I still have to ask why, when graffiti is this obvious, why it wasn't reported earlier by a bus driver.  It's not like it isn't obvious.

10 Oct update - the bus shelter has been cleaned up.  Don't know when it was done, but it's clean now.

Wymston Parade - success

About a month ago, I let Council know that the furniture along Wymston Parade had decayed rather badly and was becoming hazardous.  I went back today and found that most of the decrepit seats have been replaced - I think there are only two left.  The one on the right is an example of the old seating, with a new one on the left.

The new seats look excellent - although I didn't try sitting in one to see whether they are comfortable or not.  They are an enormous improvement on the old seats.  Things like this don't happen overnight, and I had not expected Council to move as quickly as they did to replace the old seats.  Big thumbs up.

There are also some very shiny new rubbish bins along the path as well, replacing bins that had really seen a better day.

It just goes to show that if you pick up the telephone and ask nicely, things can happen.  

Telstra - really caring for their assets

I have blogged about this phone booth in Concord several times before.  I rang Telstra and asked them to clean it up, and this was the response.

It appears that the cleaning process has removed the graffiti, but it has had the side effect of removing the underlying paint as well.  If I was in charge of Telstra's Marketing Dept, I'd have a fit over this.  Telstra are trying to promote a whizz-bang image with their 3G network, but phone booths like this make them look decidedly haphazard and useless.  

OK, so the cleaning process wrecked the signage - that's life.  But the least the cleaner could have done is report it, and ask for some new signage to be installed!  Is it that difficult?   Are people really that thick?

Does CCTV work?

I am not a big fan of CCTV.  The UK is awash with CCTV, but it seems to have had no impact on the crime rate.

There is a pedestrian tunnel to the left of this photo - the entrance is hidden under that tree.  The tunnel goes under the railway line at Concord West station.  There are two CCTV cameras in the underpass, both monitored by RailCorp, yet every time I go through this tunnel, there is more graffiti in it.

If you ask me, CCTV is worthless unless you have people nearby that can respond very quickly to an incident and nab the people responsible.  If there is no one that can be on the scene within a few minutes, they are a waste of time and money.

In this case, no one from RailCorp even seems to have noticed that there is graffiti on their property (assuming RailCorp is responsible for the pedestrian underpass).  They'd be better off putting some effort into painting over graffiti as it appears, rather than putting up cameras which deter no one.  A camera is only any good if there is a reasonable chance of it leading to an immediate arrest.  I can understand them being used on trains, which have a Guard and possibly some Transit Police who can take action, or on a station which is staffed - but who is going to respond to an incident in an underpass like this?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Abandoned car - TVW 189

The owner of this car is a sneaky person.  The rego expired in 2005 or 2006, and I reported it about 6 months ago.  It disappeared, and I assumed it had been towed away.  Then it reappeared again recently, but it is still out of rego by a few years.  I suspect the owner got a warning from the Council and simply moved it to another street - it is covered in leaf litter, giving it a brownish sheen - but the windscreen has been cleaned enough to allow it to be driven.  It has returned to a spot opposite where it was when I first reported it - 34 Dening St, Drummoyne.

I will just have to report it again tomorrow.  I can't stand it when unregistered cars are left on the street.  If you own one, find somewhere else to put it.  

An inability to find a rubbish bin

The bridge on the left is the City West Link, the one of the right is part of the Bay Run.  The canal is the Hawthorne Canal, which runs along the edge of Haberfield.  Behind me is the Legs on the Wall theatre.  In front of me is about half a shopping bag of rubbish - McDonalds food wrappers, beer bottles, cigarette packets and energy drink cans.  There is even more rubbish in the shrubs to the left and right (just out of shot).  This looks like another spot where people like to park, eat and then toss their rubbish out the car window onto the ground.

You can install as many rubbish bins as you like, but you just can't get around the problem that some people are grubs.

Drummoyne public school - followup

I guess the headmaster of Drummoyne Public School must be asleep, since there has been graffiti sprayed around the external wall for a few months now.  I tried contacting the school when I first noticed it, but that came to nothing.  I'll give it another go this week, but given that school holidays have just started, I presume no one will be very keen about putting in the effort to get it cleaned up.

Even a garage across the road from the school has been hit.

Yes, these signs are the responsibility of the RTA, but if the school has a computer with an internet connection, they can log a job with the RTA in 2 or 3 minutes and request that they come out and clean these signs.  (I've found that you can clean this stuff off in seconds with a rag and a bit of metho).

Campbell Park - now nice and clean

It's been a month since I last visited Campbell Park, but in the meantime, the Council has cleaned up all the buildings that were covered in graffiti.

Nothing happens instantly, but nothing happens at all if you don't report it.

Telstra - still thumb twiddling

It's now 5 weeks since Telstra agreed to "community remediation" (a term that I still don't understand), and the Exchange in Five Dock still looks like a dog's breakfast.

Note the presence of not one, but two Telstra vehicles out the front.  It's not like Telstra can claim that they are unaware of the graffiti all over their building, since there are Telstra staff working from there most days.

The Exchange appears to be acting as a magnet still for graffiti on surrounding properties.  This wall is opposite the exchange - it was repainted recently, and it has been  hit again and again and again.  If Telstra clean up their act, it might reduce the damage to this property as well.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NAB cleans up

Always nice to see one of the local landmark buildings being spruced up with a fresh coat of paint.  

Richards Stefani

I meant to call these guys a few weeks ago to suggest that they ask the RTA to cleanup the traffic light control box out the front of their office.  They care enough about their image to have the painters around to repaint the outside, so I guess they wouldn't object to hassling the RTA about cleaning up the mess outside their front door.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Web based graffiti reporting

I got an email from Canada Bay Council today introducing their new web based graffiti reporting system.  If you live in the Canada Bay area, and have graffiti, you can use the form here.

Just one glitch - I found that it does not work with Firefox.  I haven't tried it with Safari, but I will presume it is an IE only application.

Timbrell Park, Rodd Point

Timbrell Park is a lovely waterfront park in Rodd Point.  It's quite large, containing a number of sporting ovals and a playground.  

There are a number of picnic benches/shelters scattered around the park, and all are showing signs of wear and tear.  They are simply getting old and rusty after being exposed to the elements for years.

I'm not sure what the Council policy is regarding replacement of park furniture like this.  Nothing lasts forever, so they must have some sort of scheme for replacing it as it wears out - at least I hope they do.  You can't just leave this stuff until it rusts to the point where it just collapses in a heap on the ground under its own weight.

Plus the odd bit of vandalism.

This bin is a symbol of what can go wrong with outsourcing certain functions.  I am going to assume here that collecting rubbish from parks is an outsourced activity - just like our residential rubbish collection is done by a company contracted by Council.

Note that the bin is falling apart - it needs a replacement bolt, or a spot of welding, to return it to its original configuration.  It's been like this for months - I go past here regularly, and it has been leaning like the tower in Pisa like this since at least last year.

Now let's assume that Council has handed the contract for rubbish collection to someone else.  From that point on, no Council staff will have contact with these bins, so they won't be keeping an eye on them to ensure that they are in good condition.  Council managers would probably assume when they drew up the contract that the contractors emptying these bins would report any damage or maintenance issues, so that Council could fix them.

However, it may also be that the contractor is assuming that the Council will take care of any bin defects, and will somehow magically know about them without being told.  There is a major disconnect between the people on the ground emptying the bins and the Council managers in an office two suburbs away that are responsible for sending out a maintenance crew.

My point is that contracting out does not divorce you from the responsibility of ensuring that your assets are being looked after as they should be, and that problems are being reported.  Regular audits are required to ensure that the contractor is performing as required.

Malicious damage trends over the last 10 years

The data underlying this graph is taken from the latest report from BOCARS, with data up to July 2008.  I've added a 6-month moving average trend line to the data.

This covers all forms of malicious damage, not just graffiti, and I am interested in more than just graffiti.  You could argue all day and night about whether the trend is up or down - all that I can say is that in my opinion, this severely understates the scale of the problem, because businesses are not bothering to report damage.

Kissing Point Wharf

These photos show the toilets at Kissing Point Wharf, in the Ryde Council area.  A bit of graffiti has been sprayed on the outside and inside of both toilets.

I used to find this kind of thing amusing when I was 12 years old, which is why I can understand it when studies say that most vandals are under 18.

Update - rang Ryde Council on 9952 8222 and reported it. Ref number 974643.  Have to say, Ryde employ some lovely people in their Customer Centre.

111 people charged with graffiti in NSW in 2007

The court statistics for NSW for 2007 were released last month.  111 people were charged with 131 offences relating to graffiti.

That is down from 119 in 2006.

I wouldn't call that a "crackdown".

Will a spray paint ban do any good?

I doubt it.  I don't support it.  I've catalogued a fair amount of malicious damage over the last few months, and a great deal of it was done without the aid of spray paint.  Graffiti is just a sign of a deeper problem, not the problem in itself.  When someone feels the need to smash something up (ie, by etching it, defacing it with paint or throwing it in the creek), it simply shows a lack of maturity.  Poor impulse control.  A shortage of civilised values and morals.

According to what I've read, most graffiti is applied by juveniles, and they eventually grow out of it.  When I was a kid, there were always other kids that wrote on the back of the seats when on the bus, or nicked milk money from doorsteps, or knocked over rubbish bins or smashed the heads off garden gnomes.  They grew up and got over it, and they all came from good families and went to good schools.  They simply ran wild when unsupervised, as they didn't have the self control to stop themselves from doing stupid things.  As they got older, some graduated to getting drunk and smashing up a lot of cars.  

Eventually, they worked out that actions had consequences, and that the consequences might not be pretty, and they calmed down and grew up.  The wildness of youth was replaced by maturity, and they now have kids of their own that they are trying to raise to act in a civilised manner.

So do I have any answers?

No, not really.  But I do think that a ban on spray cans is silly.  I've used them myself, for touching up paint on cars and fixing up outdoor furniture and the like.  I can see merit in slapping a tax on them in order to pay for cleaning up graffiti (let's say $3 a can - and don't ask me how much money that will raise - I am not the Treasury), but bans never work.

You can help to mitigate the ill-effects of graffiti and other malicious damage by cleaning it up as quickly as possible, and not dragging your feet like Telstra and RailCorp.  By that, I mean removing it within 24 hours if you can.  The deterrent effect of rapid removal is, if you ask me, much more powerful than a ban.

As I have mentioned before, only 119 people were charged in NSW with graffiti offences in 2006.  That's less than one per Council area (there are 150 Councils in NSW).  I'd prefer that the government tried to enforce the existing laws, rather than slapping new ones on us.

Messing up the shoreline

These photos were all taken a few weeks back in Taplin Park, Drummoyne.  Someone had torn a few rubbish bins out of their mountings and tossed them into the water.  These bins are almost brand new, having recently replaced some badly vandalised bins.

The bins are usually mounted in pairs - this photo shows a solitary bin, as the second bin is in the drink.

This light pole shows where graffiti has been painted over - the base of the pole has been painted with a darker shade of grey.

Damage in the carpark near the boat ramp - a number of fence posts have been pushed over like this one.  It all looks deliberate rather than accidental.

I never got around to reporting this to Council.  I'll go back today if I can and check on whether a sharp-eyed Council employee has spotted it, or whether a member of the public has reported it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reporting a stink

I finally got around to reporting this rusty old thing to Sydney Water today - it's only a month since I took the photos.

In this case, I was put through to Spotless Maintenance, and the bloke I spoke to scratched his head a bit because this vent pipe is not listed in his system as a current asset.  It might be in this condition because it was taken out of production years ago, and everyone has forgotten about it.  He eventually managed to log a job against it, and we'll see what the crew says about it when they pay it a visit.  It was a bit hard to explain the location, since it is 100 metres into a big park.  

The good news is that the bloke taking the call was very helpful and friendly, and really went out of his way to take care of a pretty unusual problem.

Vandalism in Ryde

Ryde Council has recently erected these excellent maps along their walking and cycling paths.  Pity some idiot has decided to deface them, making them almost impossible to read.

That's a shocking attempt at a cleanup.

Sydney Water fails to act

I've tried twice now to get Sydney Water to clean this building in Concord.  Both attempts have been made via their website.  Next step is to write a letter to their CEO.  

Instead of writing to the CEO, I rang their contact number (13 20 90), and was put through to Spotless Maintenance.  After talking to them for a few minutes, it became clear it was not their problem, and I had to ring a Sydney Water security number - 1800 010 085.  I'm not sure why graffiti is lumped in with security, but they took the call and logged it and promised to get it cleaned up.

Now I was called a moron last month because I logged a job with Energy Australia and gave them the asset number rather than the street address.

But in this case, the first thing Sydney Water asked me for was the asset number!  The street address was no good.  Luckily, one of my photos showed a sign that said SPS 94 (which I think stands for Sewerage Pumping Station number 94), and the person taking the call was able to work out that it was in fact asset SP 094.  She spent a few minutes doing queries on their ERP or GIS system and eventually tracked down the location of the station and logged a job appropriately.  

So it can be very useful to try and find an asset number when reporting these things.

Abandoned car - YWL 323

This white Barina has been parked here for a few months, and the rego expired on 6 Sept 2008.  Must remember to ring Council about it.  Cnr of Ingham and Cunningham Sts, Five Dock.

Report filed.  

I've also noticed that about half of the cars that I reported last month have disappeared - either towed by Council or removed by their owners after they got a warning from Council.  I don't care why they went - only that they went.

The drain is just for rain

These photos show just how much rubbish ends up in the drains around here.  This canal, or drain, runs along the boundary of Haberfield, and it's always full of junk that has been washed into it from further upstream.  If it were not for traps like this, The Bay would be covered in a slick of rubbish from shore to shore.

The recent rains saw a higher level of water in the drains than normal, and all sorts of junk that would normally wash down into the trap has instead been caught on the sides of the canal as the water level has fallen.

There are possibly a hundred discarded drink bottles, spraypaint cans, oil bottles and so on washed up on the canal wall on the right in this photo.  Because of the way the canal is fenced, the only way to collect them would be to paddle up the canal in a kayak with a long grabby thing on a stick and then pick up the bottles one by one.

The alternative is to leave them here until the next storm, in the hope that the water will again rise to a level where they will be washed into the trap.

I counted half a dozen empty spray paint cans when I was taking these photos, and I am sure there were more.  Vandals like to spray the sides of the canal further upstream, and they are not too picky about how they dispose of their cans once they are empty.

These people are not "artists" - they are destructive grubs, pure and simple.