Hamilton spends big on keeping city tag free

It will cost Hamilton more than half a million dollars to rid its streets of graffiti over the next financial year.

​Around 60,000 square metres of graffiti has been removed so far this year with the most tagged areas being the central city, Fairfield, St Andrews and Hillcrest.

The council had set aside $597,608 in its annual budget to deal with the problem over the 2017/18 year.

But according to those responsible for cleaning the graffiti,
it's money well spent.

Figures released by Hamilton City Council showed the number
of tags which needed to be removed from around the city is on
the decline.

As of June 1, 2017, the total amount of tags removed was 6960,
down from 9360 in 2013.

But city safe operations manager Paul Blewman said removing
tags was still a full-time job with the City Council Tagbusters
Team consisting of three graffiti removal technicians.

They complete a scheduled list of council-owned property and
parks, before cleaning up any tags reported to through their
email or phone number. Anything offensive is the first to go.
Blewman described tagging as "like a dog marking its spot".

It is images or lettering which are painted, drawn, scrawled or scratched on property that does not belong to the person carrying out the activity.

One of the factors contributing to the decline was the speed of the Tagbusters team, Blewman said.

They aim to remove tagging within 48 hours of it being reported, because, Blewman said, tagging has a huge psychological impact.

"People don't realise how it influences people's perception of safety. Once people start to see an area tagged, they don't go there, and if they don't go there, they don't own it," he said.

"You end up with this fortress mentality. So once the sun goes down, people lock themselves in their houses because they think the whole area is teeming with gangs."

Blewman said one spray can can cause more than $7000 worth of damage, and he described one instance where a tagger's vandalism cost $20,000 to remove.

Although a lot of offenders are under the age of 17, Blewman said prolific taggers are aged in their 20s to 30s.

"The good thing is, they're generally not that smart," he said.

In fact, he and the Tagbusters team have nabbed seven taggers this year.

Many of the signatures are familiar, which makes perpetrators easy to find on social media.

Every tag is photographed by the team and uploaded into a database. They can even see if taggers have struck in other cities.

Unfortunately though, Blewman said tagging was still as prominent as ever.

Over Queen's Birthday Weekend, 150 spray cans were stolen from a Hamilton business, he said.

News like this makes Tagbusters team leader Gopal Chand cringe.

He has been working for the team for more than five years and on average, visits 20 tag sites a day.

Chand said 60 per cent of the job was removing the tag completely. Painting over them is the last option.

But taggers themselves are not selective in their choice of tool.

Chand has come across taggers using felt tip pens, shoe polish and even lipstick to write their signatures.

"So it's not only the guys, but the girls too," he said.

Chand reckons Hamilton is one of the best cities for keeping on top of tagging, but encourages residents to call them as soon as a tag is placed.

From Stuff.co.nz