One of city's worst taggers busted

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012
graffiti
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

DISHEARTENING: A member of the public passes a graffiti-defaced property in Linwood. It is not known who did this tagging.

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Police have nabbed a teenager they say is one of Christchurch's most prolific taggers, as part of a new hardline approach to the vandalism.

Senior Sergeant Glenn Nalder said an 18-year-old was arrested last week and charged with wilful damage for allegedly causing "several thousands of dollars" worth of graffiti damage in Woolston, Linwood and Richmond - most notably in Stanmore Rd.

Nalder said the teenager was identified using a list provided by the Christchurch City Council of the five "most prolific" taggers in the city.

A new list was compiled each month as part of the council's new tagforce programme, he said.

Under an initiative set up a few months ago, council staff map complaints to its graffiti hotline and collate photos of the tags.

If police catch an offender, the council can compare the tag with others found across the city.

"We've had a pretty good strike rate. In any given month we're confident we can [arrest] two or three of them [and] in the past we would only charge them with one or two tags," Nalder said.

The 18-year-old has appeared before the courts and will do so again on December 6.

In other significant arrests using the council's database, a 14-year-old and 15-year-old were arrested last month for allegedly causing damage into the "tens of thousands of dollars" each, Nalder said.

Both were charged with etching bus windows and tagging, predominantly in the eastern suburbs.

"One tag is annoying, but when you're doing a dozen or hundreds of tags, the cost to the community adds up pretty quick. It's similar offending to stealing a luxury car or 10 burglaries," Nalder said.

The hardline approach will come as welcome relief to fed-up residents in the city's east.

City council figures show reports to its graffiti hotline have soared in recent months.

The number of complaints usually fluctuates from 550 to 750 a month, but in October reached 1066.

Nalder said that increase could be driven by more public awareness and the absence of property owners.

"We're going through a phase where they [tags] are not being cleaned off as quickly as in the past," he said.

New Brighton resident Sue Davidson said tagging was "like a dog lifting its leg and marking its territory".

She helped organise a month of "mural madness" during November to give the area a point of difference.

The drive also prevented tagging because none of the murals had been vandalised, she said.

University of Canterbury student Reuben Woods, who is working on a thesis about the city's post-quake street art, said that although some tagging was "kids out there trying to cause havoc", it could also reflect a sense of abandonment.

"It is indicative of the state of the eastside," he said.

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- The Press

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