Vandalism headache for our communities

Last updated 13:00 14/11/2012

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Editorial

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OPINION: It's not surprising Kirsty Cameron was a bit lost for words this week. She'd had a sad and expensive few days, and the last thing she needed was a 3.30am police call to say that vandals had kicked in the rear window of her Nissan Primera.

"It's like - seriously? This was just the cherry on top of a horrible cake," she told the Mail.

Sadly, she'd experienced an unwelcome slice of the way society is heading. The damage to her car was no one-off aberration.

Glass repairer Smith and Smith says there is currently a spate of car vandalism. Another car parked in Ms Cameron's street had its windscreen damaged that same night. Late last month, teenage boys jumped on the bonnet and smashed the windscreen of a car parked in Broadgreen Intermediate car park in the middle of the day.

No doubt such incidents are the tip of an unpleasant iceberg. The teacher whose vehicle was damaged at Broadgreen was philosophical, suggesting the attack on her car was probably "just a craze". If so, it's time to generate a new one. Stamp-collecting, maybe. Chess. Getting an education. Growing cabbages.

It would be revealing to find the culprits and shut them in the same room as the victims for a while. It is a low-risk bet to back Ms Cameron to find plenty to say if she does get this chance. One thing that often seems lacking in those who commit such mindless crimes is a sense of empathy for others, awareness of the consequences of their destructive behaviour or respect for others' rights, feelings or property.

A well-run conference involving both parties to a crime, so often part of the "diversion" scheme protocol, can help some young offenders to get in touch with the sort of feelings the rest of us take for granted. They can also produce a wheelie-bin full of false and meaningless apologies and hollow promises about future behaviour.

Unfortunately, incidents like the one at Broadgreen are becoming all too common - and not just in Nelson. Late last month, Hawera High School unveiled a plan to locate 40 security cameras around the grounds and buildings in a bid to end a spate of vandalism. Other schools around the country have been forced into similar costly exercises. The devices are paid for out of school operating budgets and are the responsibility of individual boards of trustees.

Meanwhile, the number of urban security cameras, whether private or publicly funded, increases each year. Clearly, they are more about "insurance" and deterrence than detection after the event, although they can have a role in that, too.

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The "big brother is watching you" complaints are becoming less fervent as society generally becomes more frustrated by antisocial behaviour and used to the notion of unblinking surveillance by agents of the Crown.

Ideally, such devices would not be necessary. That some aspects of the sort of Orwellian society predicted in the novel Nineteen Eighty-four are becoming commonplace is a matter of regret. However, the prevalence and cost of antisocial crime, linked with the technological advances in fixed-camera technology, makes such changes all but inevitable.

- The Nelson Mail

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