One of the worst sources of visual pollution in Tauranga has reached a three-year low with 7900 tags removed from council property last year.
The good news was delivered by the city's graffiti prevention co-ordinator Jane Denton, who told councillors yesterday that this was 1575 tags fewer than the previous year, or a 17 per cent drop.
It costs ratepayers an average of $16,250 a month to remove tags from council property, with 324 people apprehended for tagging last year, which was down 25 per cent on the previous 12 months.
As usual, court-ordered reparations were a tiny fraction of the $195,000 annual bill to paint out tags. The council recovered $4700 from offenders which was barely 2.5 per cent of the costs.
"The stocks would be a good idea," said Councillor Terry Molloy on the old-fashioned English method of publicly shaming lawbreakers.
Statistics showed that Maori comprised 54 per cent of those who ended up before the courts for graffiti vandalism and wilful damage, with Europeans making up 44 per cent. Nearly all were males aged between 14 and 20.
Two-thirds of those caught ended up being prosecuted. Twenty-three per cent were referred to the police Youth Aid section and 8 per cent received a warning.
Ms Denton said eradicating tagging was a joint effort among the council, police and Ministry of Justice agencies.
She said the rapid removal of the tags by the council's new contractor, Civic Contractors, was helped by Civic also having the contract to clean Powerco's electricity power boxes and cabinets; allowing a blanket approach to cleaning up areas covered in graffiti or tattered posters.
Ms Denton said murals by street artists were also helping to reduce tagging. The artists built relationships with taggers and encouraged them to focus on legal art.
Quizzed about whether the age restriction on buying spray paint cans was helping, she said that taggers were asking people older than them to obtain their cans.