Parents urged to help stop taggers

By Hannah Norton

Council workers removed 20,298 tags from around Whangarei district in the six months to July. Photo / Thinkstock
Council workers removed 20,298 tags from around Whangarei district in the six months to July. Photo / Thinkstock

A Northland father is challenging parents to step up and help tackle the graffiti epidemic by holding their children responsible for their actions after his own bit of tough love stopped his son's vandalism.

Latest figures released by the Whangarei District Council (WDC) show council workers removed 20,298 tags from around the district in the six months to July. Much of the tagging is being attributed to the same group of youths by the council's Stop Tags database.

Kawakawa man Joey Rapana is urging parents to "take some credit [for] this". "You teach them right then they'll do right to others."

He remembers catching his now-adult son tagging on the neighbour's fence when he was a youngster in Whangarei.

"I took him to the neighbours to apologise. Then I said to him, 'I'm going to graffiti your name on our fence'.

"So I wrote '>name< has graffitied the neighbour's fence. I hope he's shamed', and he never did it again.

It changed his character," Mr Rapana said.

He believes the reasons youths tag include to "look cool, peer pressure, and I think it's a fame thing among those peers".

Changing those behaviours will come down to parenting, he said.

"Just take part in your kids' lives. I think a lot of parents [are] backing away.

Children also need to take responsibility for their actions, he said.

Brad Olsen, Unicef youth ambassador and chairman of the Whangarei Youth Advisory Group, agrees.

"The saying around "it takes a community to raise a child" is important, in that family needs to be actively involved in young people's lives to make sure they have alternative opportunities to express themselves other than damaging property," Mr Olsen said.

"It's possible that a specific area for tagging could work to alleviate part of the problem, [but] maybe not, [as] there will still be those who want to be rebellious."

He believes that it is important to make the distinction between graffiti art and vandalism.

"Graffiti [art] is a form of art, but graffiti vandalism or tagging is needless damage to property," he said.

"We have some really talented young artists out there, who may be focused on tagging, but they have a lot of untapped potential.

"Let's see if we can redirect their creativity to making works which the community appreciate, and want to recognise in a positive light."

He's interested in talking to a tagger to find out what motivates them.

"As always when working with young people you'll never discover a solution if you don't engage with the affected party itself," he said.

He also wants to point out that it is not an exclusively youth-related issue.

"It's not wholly a youth problem, and for those youths that do tag, it's a case of the few ruining it for the many through self expression, rebellion, frustration with authority."

- Northern Advocate

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