Opinion: Graffiti vandals unchecked in town

Concerned resident and ratepayer,

As residents and visitors to our town will have noted, Castlemaine has been subject to increasing graffiti attacks in the town by a criminal and who has left his offensive tags on over 30 locations around the shire.

The prolific tagger’s unchecked activity has inspired a new bunch of taggers, intent on destroying the beauty of our town. As one resident reported, “Even the tree outside my house was graffitied!”

It is no mystery to locals why this tagger and friends are free to run rampant vandalising private and public property, including our historic bridges, public and private fences, walls, NBN infrastructure, road signs, drainage pipes and anywhere else that takes their fancy.

Firstly, despite a police station in the heart of town, this has little impact on this escalating problem.

Secondly, Mount Alexander Shire Council (MASC) has consistently refused to take the same active approach to combating graffiti vandalism available to it under the Victorian Government’s 2007 Graffiti Prevention Act, and which neighbouring councils readily use.

How does this fit with the new MASC project to ‘work together to visualise the future of tourism for the shire and beyond’ and its Shape Alexander Heritage Study?

As noted in the City of Greater Bendigo Graffiti Prevention Policy, under the provisions of the Act council CAN remove graffiti from private property if the graffiti is visible from a public place.

While MASC’s recent appointment of a part-time Graffiti Prevention Officer may seem like a breakthrough, by its own admission at the council meeting on September 19, it’s unclear whether any of the $60,000 budget for this position is available for paint or other equipment to eradicate the graffiti that has stayed around town on public and private property for months and even years, let alone any new tags.

The extent of MASC’s written policy is to boast about writing to residential and commercial property owners ‘to inform of them of their responsibility to remove it as per council’s law’- while conveniently omitting any reference to the powers available to it under the Victorian Graffiti Prevention Act.

There is also no real evidence of its claims to have increased graffiti removal on council assets. Instead, as one business owner reported, it threatens to fine private property owners who fail to remove graffiti, while offering little practical support.

By contrast, the City of Greater Bendigo’s policy aims to ‘proactively remove graffiti in a timely manner and to undertake rapid removal of graffiti on city-owner and managed property within 10 working days.’

Bendigo also uses the Department of Justice’s Graffiti Offenders Program, where offenders are ordered to remove graffiti from allocated sites. 

It also works together with other public and private property owners. As its policy states, ‘one of the effective strategies in graffiti prevention is active engagement, education and development of partnerships to develop a broader approach to the management and removal.’ Success is evident to any Bendigo visitors.

The Sandringham Graffiti Busters graffitibusters.com.au/about-us/ is yet another example of what can be done by local residents with council support.

When will Mount Alexander Shire seriously address local residents’ concerns by establishing a Graffiti Action Group to work actively with council?

The Australian Institute of Criminology clearly states that unchecked graffiti encourages lawlessness, and a sense of disorder and lack of safety. As Bendigo acknowledges in its policy, graffiti prevention is also important for maintaining ‘quality community amenities and for engendering a feeling of civic pride’.

Where is MASC’s civic pride and concern for community safety?

Both Maryborough and Bendigo have found CCTV at graffiti hot spots to be effective. The Community Crime Prevention Unit at the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety states that in the right settings this can reduce crime.

Why hasn’t MASC installed CCTV at graffiti hot spots?

As evidenced by the recent escalation, graffiti in Mount Alexander Shire is likely to increase indefinitely unless there is a more effective and cohesive policy.

Until then, the taggers will have full permission to trash our town, causing thousands of dollars of damage to private and public property.

Castlemaine Mail
Your source of independent local news in the Mount Alexander Shire.