Tagging Graffiti Vandals
Next Sunday is Graffiti Action Day. Its a bit like Clean-Up Australia Day but targeting graffiti instead of rubbish (no doubt some would consider it the same thing).
Feelings about graffiti are often mixed. Some see it as a form of artistic expression, to be applauded. Of course, it depends whether the graffiti in question is a pictorial work of art or a rude comment; and on its location.
Some may confess to having left their mark on the back of a public toilet door in former teen days; a quiet rebellion against authority or a public demonstration of affection (X is hot!). As adults though, coming home to find the wall of your home has been tagged is a rude shock. Its irritating. Invasive. And it costs time and money to clean up. Often yours.
The main legislation targeting graffiti crime in NSW is the Graffiti Control Act. The maximum sentence for damaging or defacing property by way of graffiti is $2,200, or 12 months jail time for re-offenders. And attaching a sign or paper to any premises could land you a $440 fine.
The definition of graffiti implements in the Act now includes marker pens, along with spray paint cans and anything else designed to leave a mark thats not easily wiped away.
If youre under 18 youre not allowed to have a spray paint can unless you can prove its for a lawful purpose, such as an educational one. And if youre a retailer youre not allowed to sell spray paint cans to minors, or display them in your shop unless theyre secured (eg. locked in a cabinet). Those offences come with $1,100 fines.
Courts can opt to give graffiti vandals community clean up orders in place of fines, along with participation in a graffiti prevention program.
One law that might please some people is that councils are allowed to remove graffiti from your house without your permission if the graffitis visible to the public, at their expense. (Perhaps not so pleasing if it was your own artistic expression!)
For really serious acts of property damage the Crimes Act prescribes a 5 year jail sentence.
And NSW laws may get even tougher with graffiti firmly scribbled on the new governments agenda. It wants to give courts the power to suspend offenders drivers licenses or extend the time they have to stay on their Ls or Ps. And make it a requirement that junior graffiti vandals have to physically front up to court instead of just getting a warning; receiving license-related penalties or clean-up orders.
There are also plans to set up a hotline for reporting graffiti and having it removed.
Time will tell whether the state governments proposals make their intended mark.