THERE it sits, crudely scrawled on walls and signs, an ugly symbol of youth hopelessness.
Despite all the headlines and hand-wringing in recent years, Wagga’s graffiti blight is worsening.
In recent days, a graffiti vandal (this is clearly not the work of an “artist”) has gone on a rampage in Turvey Park, defacing everything from power poles to NBN boxes.
Those that claim graffiti is only a “cosmetic issue”, and far worse in major cities than Wagga, are missing the point.
Any graffiti impacts on how the community views itself.
When our shared spaces are vandalised, it erodes civic pride and breeds mistrust and cynicism.
The question then is not whether graffiti is impacting our community but more how do we lesson that impact?
This is not a problem unique to Wagga.
Other regional centres have been grappling with the issue, some with stunning success.
In Inverell, the community cleans graffiti damage within 24 hours, rather than days or weeks.
This removes both the graffiti, and the “notoriety aspect” for vandals.
We should never forget that those committing these crimes are outnumbered a hundred to one by those that would be willing to help clean it off.
But while admirable, the goodwill of those in the community addresses only the effect, not the cause.
Just as vandals show creativity in identifying their targets – no structure is too high or item nailed down too securely – the justice system should get creative in handing out sanctions to these criminals.
The eye-for-an-eye mentality never fits more neatly than when applied to graffiti vandals.
Rewards should be in place for “dobbing in a vandal” and, when caught, perpetrators should be made to scour graffiti off walls until their knuckles bleed.
Ultimately, the justice system must be judged by its ability to reform.
What would be a better deterrent, hundreds of hours of backbreaking scrubbing or a good behaviour bond?
No magistrate in their right mind could answer the latter.
Yet that is what’s served up on a weekly basis in our local courts.
Is it any wonder the same faces keep re-appearing?