Graffiti covers a wall in Bay St, Tweed Heads. Photo: John Gass / Daily News
Graffiti covers a wall in Bay St, Tweed Heads. Photo: John Gass / Daily News John Gass

Broken window theory could mean growing graffiti problem

GRAFFITI vandalism is cited as the top problem in communities by 21% of the NSW population, according to Bond University's Terry Goldsworthy.

The associate professor of criminology and Queensland ex-detective inspector of 30 years said the crime costs Australia more than $200 million every year.

He said there were several different types of graffiti vandalism, with different psychological factors behind each.

"The first is gang graffiti, to make their mark or convey threats of violence," Prof Goldsworthy said.

"Or the tagger graffiti artist - high volume simple hits."

Prof Goldsworthy said there were also those who vandalised due to youthful experience or deliberately used political, ideological or religiously themed graffiti to get their message across.

He also noted the "broken window theory", which predicts that petty crime, if not tackled, can develop into more serious acts as time passes, due to the normalisation of urban disorder.

"You need to remove it (graffiti) immediately so they have no great benefit in doing it," Prof Goldsworthy said.

"It's interesting because it's such a pointless crime; it's all about psychology."

The Bond associate professor said making graffiti vandals clean up their mess was a powerful tool in minimising the crime and preventing further acts.

He said often victims of graffiti, such as property owners, would feel a sense of justice if offenders were made to fix the problem their vandalism had caused.

"We sometimes tend to downplay the significance in the community," he said.

"Graffiti has a blow-on effect. It can affect the perception of behaviour that's acceptable in an area."

Prof Goldsworthy, like many criminology and sociology professionals, did not agree that graffiti was a victimless crime, as argued by some offenders.

He said while graffiti walls might help curb some proportion of graffiti vandalism, without conceited crime prevention efforts the problem would likely continue.



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