Thursday, 1 September 2005 - 12:00pm |
Counties Manukau

Controlling and deterring graffiti

5 min read

What is graffiti?

Defacing property by graffiti vandalism is an act of intentional damage, constituting a criminal offence, carrying a penalty of up to three months imprisonment.

Graffiti is usually committed by youths using aerosol paint cans or markers, to leave a series of symbols or tags on a property. The tag identifies a particular individual, or group, as an advertisement to other taggers for recognition.

Status is conveyed by the more prominent the tag is, and the more times it appears. If not removed, at the earliest opportunity, the tag will be repeated frequently over the surrounding area, and other taggers will be attracted to compete, resulting in an area being inundated with graffiti.

If ignored, the spread of graffiti in a street can convey a visible message that the community is not concerned about appearance, and does not care. Apart from potential lowering of property values, an image of urban decay can generate a fear of neighbourhood crime, and may attract crime.

Reporting graffiti where offenders are present, or have just left

It is important where offender(s) are observed in the act of committing graffiti, that Police are telephoned immediately. The Police member answering the call should be clear advised that the offender is under observation, or has just left.

In Counties-Manukau members of the public witnesses graffiti being committed, should telephone the 24-hour District Police Service Desk on Ph: 295 0200.

What the Police will want to know

A clear view of offenders and actions may be obscured by vehicles, walls, shrubbery, inadequate lighting and distance, but as far as possible any information on the following points will be useful for Police:

• How many offenders;

• Pinpoint location as far as possible;

• Description of clothing;

• Physical description - age, height, race, any distinctive features;

• What is the person doing, if more than one, who is doing what;

• Are hands stained with paint;

• Direction of offender(s) and vehicle if they leave;

• If offender(s) discard any graffiti implements when leaving, pinpoint particular location.

What can I do apart from telephoning the Police?

If you have a camera or video camera, you could photograph the offender(s), if you can safely do so without alerting them and placing yourself at risk.

If Police are delayed as a result of attendance at other incidents, make a written record of what you have observed, as this will be helpful for Police enquiries. A record of the tag will also be helpful.

If it is not your property that has been vandalised, and it is practical to do so, you could either contact, or leave a note, for the owner, advising that you witnessed the offence.

Reporting graffiti where offender(s) have not been seen

If your property has been defaced by graffiti vandals, and the matter is historical, you can attend any Police Station to make a complaint of intentional damage.

Property owners in Manukau City also have the option of telephoning Manukau City Call Centre, on Ph: 262 5104, to report the graffiti. The Council will record details of the offence, and communicate the information to Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust.

Manukau Beautification Trust administers a graffiti management programme, and delivers a graffiti eradication service. The Trust, subject to some conditions, will attend both private and commercial premises in Manukau City, photograph tags, and paint out graffiti. A modest charge for paint may be involved.

Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust may be contacted on Ph: 269 4080, for information on its paint out and photography services, or its website viewed at:

Additionally, as part of its graffiti management strategy, Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust collates a tagging database, for determining hotspot offending areas, and provides regular reports to Police, with information that may lead to the identification of offenders. The Trust also provides a graffiti prevention education programme in schools.

Property owners, in Papakura and Franklin, are encouraged to photograph tags on their property, and forward photographs to Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust, at P O Box 98 033, South Auckland Mail Centre. Photographs, in digital format, can be emailed to

In any cases where Manukau Beautification Trust may not be able to attend properties for photographing tags in Manukau City areas, owners are also encouraged to forward photographs.

Information accompanying photographs should include, date photograph taken, date of offence (if known), owner's name and address where graffiti occurred. If not clear on the photograph, a brief comment on what surface was tagged, e.g. front fence, garage door, wall of house.

Reducing the risks of your property being targeted

• Planting shrubs or other vegetation in front of fences and walls.

• Painting fences or walls in dark colours to discourage graffiti.

• If replacing or building a new boundary wall or fence, making it difficult to graffiti, by choosing a style not providing a continuous flat surface.

• Install motion sensor lights that cover a boundary wall or fence.

• Forming a Neighbourhood Support Group in the street, with neighbours keeping an eye on each others properties. (Information on how to join Neighbourhood Watch can be obtained by telephoning 0800 463 4447).

• In the event of graffiti occurring, a group of residents, or local businesses, can form an 'Adopt a Spot' scheme, whereby participants agree to promptly point out any tagging appearing in a selected area, as a measure to discourage further graffiti.

Removing graffiti

• Graffiti is easier to remove before it dries.

• The appropriate treatment for graffiti removal will vary, depending on whether the surface is treated or untreated, hard, soft, or porous. It may be advisable to seek advice from a paint products specialist.

• Dependent on type of surface, typical treatments are application of Methylated Spirits, turpentine, paint stripper, detergents, oven cleaner, branded graffiti removal products, and sanding or waterblasting.

• Covering surfaces in a graffiti protection product will make removal far easier if the surface is tagged.

Parental awareness

Some taggers are of school age, and parents may need to increase awareness of their children's' activities, to check that they are not involved in graffiti vandalism.

Signs indicative of possible involvement in tagging, may include tag signs appearing on baseball caps, notebooks, bags or personal possessions. Paint or marker pen dye may also be on hands, fingernails, shoes or clothing, and aerosol cans or marker pens may be found in children's bedrooms.

If parents suspect a child of involvement in tagging, enquiries with teachers may assist as to any behaviour noted at school, indicating a pupil may be involved.

Where parents believe their child is involved in tagging, the local Community Constable, or Youth Aid Officer, can be contacted for advice, as to intervention by a Police visit to the home, for resolving the offending without recourse to the judicial process.