Hutt taggers take risks to new heights

NICHOLAS BOYACK
Last updated 12:29 27/11/2012

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A bizarre and risky new style of graffiti has hit Lower Hutt and the council admits it does not know how to deal with it.

Heaven's Spot involves putting graffiti on high, hard-to-reach and dangerous locations.

Taggers have started hitting multi-storey buildings in Jackson and High streets, as well as bridges over State Highway 2.

Safe City officer Adrian Peoples told the council's city development committee last week that the style originated in New York in the wake of successful anti-graffiti campaigns.

The taggers realised that those removing graffiti were hamstrung by safety regulations, which stopped them getting to high and dangerous places.

The policy of removing graffiti within 48 hours had proved highly successful and taggers had changed tactics, Mr Peoples said.

To remove high placed graffiti the council's contractor needed to use scaffolding or other safety equipment, and that was time consuming and expensive.

In some cases the taggers are risking their lives by being held over the side of buildings by their ankles.

Graffiti eradication officer Delly Ranginui told Fairfax Media the Heaven's Spot style had become a significant problem.

On average it has cost the council $26 a square metre to remove tags but removing it from the top of buildings will cost a lot more.

The council will need to significantly increase its budget if it uses scaffolding and cherry pickers.

The best solution is to stop the taggers before they hit buildings.

Every tagger has a signature and the police know who they are. Police have been visiting taggers at home and talking to parents, and the taggers, about the risk involved, he said.

Like drink driving, taggers tend to be remorseful for a time, then go out and do it again.

He favoured prosecuting taggers but that was easier said than done.

To get a successful prosecution, police have to catch a tagger at work or rely on CTV cameras. Even when they catch someone who has done hundreds of tags, the police can then only charge the tagger for the one tag.

Although taggers are proud of their signature and even advertise it on Facebook, when caught they claim someone is copying their work.

WRITING ON THE WALL

- 98 percent of graffiti reported to the council between June and October 2012 was removed within 48 hours.

- Councillor Chris Milne told last week's meeting that he would like to see property owners made responsible for removing graffiti on tall buildings.

- The most prolific tagger, with 538 tags in September and October, fittingly uses the signature "dope".

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- In September and October, council contractors removed 27,174 tags.

- The July to September cost of removing graffiti was $139,178. The council recovered some of the expense from private property.

- Hutt News

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