Friday, July 31, 2009

The race is on

The RTA traffic light cabinet, letter box and Energy Australia kiosk pictured below are all within 50 metres of each other. All were reported on Tuesday. I go past these every working day, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes each agency to clean up their asset.

Ever wondered why it costs so much to remove graffiti? For each of these assets, a separate contractor will be despatched to do the clean up. That's three lots of travel time, 3 separate quotes and 3 separate bookings. Our tax dollars would go a lot further if just the two state government agencies here could be strong armed into using some sort of shared service.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dealing with the post-holidays mess

School holidays - always a peak time for graffiti. Now that the little dears are back in class, I've been cataloguing and reporting the results of their two week spree with a spray can.

Total so far - 4 Energy Australia Kiosks, 3 RTA traffic light utility cabinets and 3 Australia Post letter boxes - and I have only just begun. Life would be a lot easier if the managers at these three companies simply said, "Right, school holidays are over. Many of our assets have probably been hit. Let's send someone out to have a look, and arrange to have this mess cleaned up".

Alien thinking. Does not compute.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What did your kids do during the school holidays?

For many kids, school holidays mean a trip to a holiday location, or a sports camp. For others, it's a time to go ballistic with the tagging and the vandalism. With the onset of cold and wet weather, it looked like most vandals had gone into hibernation about a month ago. Then, a day or two before the school holidays commenced, they went nuts. I haven't blogged much for the last few weeks as I decided to simply let them go feral over the holidays, and to then start reporting their trails of destruction once they went back to school.

A new term starts today, so I started my graffiti reporting this morning. I've got a swag to report - mainly Energy Australia kiosks, which appear to have been the target of choice these holidays, along with the news agency in Five Dock.

The cycle of making a mess and then cleaning it up starts again.......

PS - I forgot the mention RTA utility cabinets, which have also taken a hammering.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The stuff people inject themselves with

I was doing my irregular sweep of the street last week, picking up all the rubbish that people leave behind.  In amongst the usual McDonalds wrappers and cans of V and the odd wine bottle, there was a syringe.  I've collected the odd syringe when doing Clean Up Australia, but this was the first for our street.

There was a bit of paperwork with the syringe, so out of curiosity, I picked that up too and read it.

There were two receipts from a taxi EFTPOS machine - both rejected.  It looks like our litterbug caught a taxi over this way, and didn't have the required $10 in their savings account to pay the fare.

The other paperwork explained what the syringe contained - a prescription only drug for erectile dysfunction.

As we have a brothel not far away, I am guessing that some hard up (no pun intended) punter caught a taxi that they couldn't pay for, then injected themselves in the street with a drug for a service that they could not afford.  I wonder if the brothel lets regulars run a tab?

I wish the cops had busted him with his pants down (assuming he injected the stuff into his bum, as the instructions said to do) and given him a stiff fine.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Community engagement

I attended the second meeting today of the Burwood LAC/Canada Bay Council CSPC - that's Police talk for Community Safety Precinct Committee.  As far as acronyms go, that one is a mouthful.  They really need to introduce a vowel or two so that it can be pronounced as a word - think RIMPAC and CENTAG and GOSPLAN.

The idea of the CSPC is to bring together the Police, local councils, the local MP, businesses and "members of the community" - ie, me.  To date, I have been the only MOP (member of public) to attend, which is a bit disappointing for all concerned.  I'm sure there are plenty of people out there with concerns that they want to raise with the Police, but if they won't take the time to front up at these meetings, then their voices won't be heard.  No one dominates the meetings, everyone gets to have their say and business is transacted in a civilised and professional fashion.

I know that these meetings can be hijacked by single interest nutters, or those with an axe to grind, or those that have nothing better to do than attend public meetings and declaim at length on the problems of the world.  I got my point across at the first meeting, which was good, and all I had to do this morning was provide an update on how our sub-committee was going.  That took a few minutes, and then we moved on to discussing other problems in the Canada Bay area, such as muggings and breaking and entering.

The local media didn't attend this time, which is sad, but maybe there is not enough "juice" in these meetings for them.  They need a nice controversial story, and I don't think the CSPC is going to provide it for them.  Crime fighting and crime prevention is not about headline grabbing announcements and thinking that the latest management fad or bit of fancy technology is going to solve every problem.  It's often tedious, thorough, methodical and entirely unglamorous work using age-old methods and know-how.  It's also an ever shifting battle as new techniques are tried and fine tuned, or approaches are switched back and forth in order to keep the initiative.  

The next meeting will be held in mid October.

Arts and crafts

The local "artists" have been touching up this wall at the approaches to the Gladesville Bridge. The top photo was taken in May. Since then, the only bit of this wall with any artistic merit - the panel at the top left - has been painted over with black paint and a new pink and purple "squiggle" has appeared in its place.

The existing squiggles to the right have also been "improved" upon, if you can call it that.  touches of red and white paint have been added as part of an ongoing project.

I still have no idea whether this is a legal wall or not.  If the property owner has provided permission to do this, I have no complaints.  I might not like the style, as it is not to my taste, but property rights are property rights, and the owner can do as they wish.  If it's illegal, I hope the "artists" get busted one day and pay the appropriate penalty.  I can't stand it when people think they have a "right" to interfere with the property of others.

Who owns what?

There is a cycleway underneath the M4 motorway, and there are cabinets every so often for supplying electricity to the lights along the pathway.  Most of the cabinets have been vandalised, and they bear a simple tag like this one:

M4 Cycleway metering 
Electricity supply from Martha St
Pole No. 889

Thinking that anything to do with electricity would be looked after by Energy Australia, I logged this problem with them.  They have replied today that these cabinets belong to the RTA.

It's nice that EA responded quickly, and pointed me at the RTA, but I wish the companies or agencies that own these cabinets would put some sort of identifying tag on them, along with a contact number in case of problems.  

I've now logged this with the RTA.

Most of the asset tags on these cabinets are unreadable.  It looks like they have been tagged before, and whoever came and painted  them painted straight over the tags, obliterating the information on them.  I've also asked that the RTA clean the tags up and remove the paint from them, so that they appear as originally intended.

These cabinets are also "off the beaten track", and I guess they are not visually inspected very often.  If they are tagged, the only way they will ever get cleaned is if a member of the public reports them.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I give up

No, I am not giving up on doing what I am doing.  I give up when it comes to the Department of Housing.  

I spotted graffiti in a housing commission block 4 months ago.  It was still there when I went past it on the weekend.

I finally got off my backside and decided to look at the department's website to see if I could log the damage via a web page.

No such luck.  All they offer is a phone number for a call centre.

I detest ringing call centres.  I'm not going to bother reporting it.  I can see why none of the residents have bothered reporting it for 4 months either.

Won't someone think of the children?

I can't stand that saying.  "Won't someone think of the children"?  It always seems to be promoted my some mushy-headed do-gooder intent on promoting fashionable policies that end up working against the best interests of parents, children and society.

I prefer a more hard-headed approach myself.

Here is a playground in Granville, well away from my usual stalking ground of Canada Bay. Having young children, I am now familiar with playgrounds of all shapes and sizes, and have watched my kids play in them from one end of the state to the other.  

This is not a bad looking playground, but it has a manky look and feel about it.  It has not been maintained particularly well - graffiti on the plastic surfaces has not been removed properly, and equipment that is probably only a few years old looks uninviting and filthy.  This is not a place where I would choose to bring my kids.  

Council has spent thousands of dollars on landscaping this area, installing soft-fall cushioning and updating the equipment to the latest play-safe level, but all that money is wasted if parents decide that they'd rather keep their kids at home than allowing them to play in a rubbish tip.

Canada Bay Council thankfully takes a much more vigorous approach to maintaining public playgrounds than this council.  Council staff regularly visit and check the major playgrounds around our area, and they're very receptive to taking reports of damage and doing something about it.  I have no hesitation in reporting anything that is out of place in a playground in our area, because I "think of the children". 

One thing that sends me completely spare though is when I am at a playground with the kids and I overhear another parent say something along the lines of, "Oh look, that swing is broken. Why hasn't the useless council fixed it?"  I always want to bail them up and say, "It's because no useless parent has reported it to the council.  Do you think they have a magic eyeball in the sky that can detect these things from afar?"

One thing both councils share though is no lack of idiots that like to hang out in kid's playgrounds at night and bugger them up for everyone else.

The buck stops where?

I spotted a stretch of illegally posted bills last week along the underside of the M4 motorway in Strathfield.  This spot is owned by the RTA.  The interesting thing is that the first three posters were for a federal government initiative.  As laudable as that initiative might be, putting up posters on property that is not yours is illegal.

I'm waiting for Canada Bay Council to advise me on what their policy is in this regard.  If they are in the mood for cracking down, I hope that they send Nicola Roxon, the federal minister, a fine.  After all, the buck stops with her.

As these more recent photos show, the RTA has come along and stuck a wide roll of paper over the top, presumably to render the posters useless, and to discourage others from posting here as well.  This to me says that they don't want posters stuck up here, and the attentions from the Dept of Health are unwelcome.

We, the taxpayer, get stung twice for this.  Once for the Dept of Health to run this campaign, and once to clean up the mess afterwards from public property.  If this is someone's idea of a stimulus package, it's a sick joke if you ask me.

The slow pace of life in the Education ministry

I wrote to Verity Firth MP last Monday (the NSW Minister for Education) and requested that she arrange to have a new flag issued to Auburn North Public School, along with a booklet on proper treatment of the flag.  Given that schools are where we are supposed to teach children how to do things properly, it might be an idea to teach them through example how they should respect our flag.  

Auburn North is not doing a very good job of that.  In fact, they are doing a shocker of a job. Their flag is so tattered, faded and worn, it is even worse than the tree-tangled dish rag that was being flown out the front of Five Dock Police Station.  And that is saying something.

As of the weekend, the old dish rag was still there.  The flag is not floodlit, so it should have been taken down on Friday at the end of school.  Yet here is a photo showing it flying (or limping) on the weekend.

This is what passes for teaching kids about "respect" these days.

I still haven't received a response from the Minister's office - not even an acknowledgement that they received my email.  Given how long it took to get action taken on the flag outside Five Dock Police Station, I'm hoping to get this flag replaced by Christmas.  And to also ensure that it isn't left flying over the holidays, let alone overnight.

Barriers to artistic development

Council has recently added another vehicle and staff member to the graffiti cleanup crew, with the new vehicle and staffer being dedicated to "paint out" jobs rather than graffiti removal jobs (which uses chemicals and  hot water under pressure).  This crash barrier is an example of a "paint out" job, where paint is simply slapped over the top of graffiti.  

I went past this spot a few weeks ago, and saw these barriers being painted.  Hasn't taken long for the local mess makers to return for a bit of Saturday night scribbling.

Reported to Council via their web site.

Bus ride to nowhere

I've reported a few abandoned cars in my time, but I've never reported anything as large as a bus.  From the general air of decrepitude, and the graffiti on the rear, this bus in North Strathfield appears to be abandoned.  It's been here for a few weeks at least, but it can't be reported just yet as the rego still has a bit of time to run.

The Council will have some fun getting this towed away if it comes to that.

Graffiti and the environment

Graffiti "artists" like to promote themselves as hip young things, in touch with the urban groove.  Or whatever.  Environmentalists also like to imagine that young people are more caring and sharing and nurturing, especially when it comes to all things green.

Here is an object that is both green in colour and "green" in the sense that it promotes environmentally friendly transport - push bikes.  Yet this is the 2nd or 3rd time that it has been covered in random graffiti scribbling this year.  The scribblings were presumably applied by teenagers, rather than 50 year old capitalist running dogs.  

I have never understood this idea that young people care more for the environment than their elders.  They've just had less opportunity, given their age, to consume their share of resources. Young males in particular are a decidedly narcissistic and uncaring bunch of people, with "me, me, me" being the order of the day.  However, they have enough smarts to mouth all the politically correct platitudes when asked, whilst carrying on in an environmentally destructive manner that would cause your average lentil-chewing inhabitant of Glebe to break out in hysterics.

That is all beside the point.  I finally managed to track down a single contact detail for what I hope is the group that manages these lockers - an email address at the Ministry of Transport. I've emailed them and asked them to come and clean the graffiti off.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It's gone down - when will it go back up?

As I was going past the Five Dock Police Station earlier this week, I noticed that the flag out the front had finally been hauled down.  I have this bugbear about it being left up overnight when it shouldn't be.  The protocols regarding flying the flag are crystal clear, and can be located immediately by typing "flag protocol" into Google.

The Australian National Flag should be displayed only in a manner befitting the national emblem. It should not be subjected to indignity or displayed in a position inferior to any other flag or ensign. The Flag normally takes precedence over all other national flags when flown in Australia. It should always be flown aloft and free and should not be allowed to fall or lie upon the ground.

The flag may be displayed at night, but only when it is properly illuminated
Although the Police fly the NSW state flag, the same rules apply as for the National Flag. You'd think the Police of all people would be capable of following the proper procedure.  Policing is, after all, a very procedures driven occupation.  If you don't follow the proper procedure when arresting and charging someone, or when handling evidence, your case will be thrown out of court.  

I imagine every police officer follows a "start up" procedure when getting ready in the morning - uniform clean and ironed, boots polished, baton, pistol, hat, cuffs, notebook, pen, keys, flashlight etc etc etc. They'd follow this procedure automatically to ensure that they don't go on duty and find that they have forgotten to take part of their kit with them.

In a similar vein, every station should have a daily procedure written down - a checklist - covering everything that has to be done either at shift handover or when the station opens and closes.  With regard to the flag at Five Dock, there are three possible scenarios:

  1. Such a checklist exists, but raising and lowering the flag is not included, or
  2. No checklist exists
  3. A checklist exists, it covers flag protocol, but it is not being followed
I don't know which scenario is worse.  Either way, senior management in our Local Area Command now knows about it, and it has obviously become someone's problem.  

I know this is a small thing, and it might seem ridiculous to harp on about it, but I believe that if the Police are to be effective, they must present themselves properly to the public.  Their vehicles should be in good condition and clean.  Officers must look like Police Officers - no one is going to trust an officer that looks like a bag of sh*t.  Police Stations and officers must present an air of authority, competence and trust.  Flying a dirty old dish rag out the front looks bad, it is bad, and it has to stop.  I regularly see Police cars and fire engines flying the flag, and it is clearly flown with pride.  Why can't our local station get the same?

It costs nothing to treat the flag properly, but the pay off in pride and self respect and public trust and respect is surely worth the effort.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What a shocker

I had to visit the Strathfield CBD this morning on business.

What a shocker. The place looks like a tip.

Just goes to show what happens when you have a Council that is not concentrating on the little things that all add up to make life pleasant or miserable.