Thursday, February 23, 2012

Writing's on the Wall

I try not be too rude about politicians on this blog.

If you want to read about the ideological failings of any party, there are plenty places for you to go. If you enjoy a writer who just spews hatred at anyone in particular, there are probably dozens of blogs and more twitter accounts than you could count.

But sometimes a politician is willfully stupid. Sometimes a politician chooses to set aside any pretence of governing for the good of the people but rather makes a shamelessly populist, attention grabbing move that could wreck people's lives for no good reason whatsoever.

Take a bow David Elliott.
Photo from Hills Shire Times
Earlier today David published his grand theory of dealing with graffiti.

Now, let's be clear about something. Vandalism is a serious issue. Businesses, private individuals, and the taxpayer spend millions every year cleaning it up. I don't think tagging is art, and I'm as annoyed as the next person by graffiti on the train.

As it happens, from where I sit as I type this on a CityRail train, I can see that some wag has scrawled something incomprehensible on the wall. Moreover, some particularly industrious individuals have "etched" words onto every single window of the carriage.

The thing is, though, whilst the perpetrators' work usually simple to the point of being incomprehensible, the solutions are anything but.

Society will always have a lowest rung - a dissaffected, angry youth engages in graffiti because it provides him with self-expression, because he is bored, because he is angry and doesn't know why, or just because, to him, it gives him a sense of power in a society where he has none.

There are any number of reasons why people do this. The causes are not simple, no matter how much you want them to be, and neither are the solutions.

So, let's have a look at Mr Elliott has to say on the issue.
So, he is a victim of crime. That's unfortunate, and not something to be laughed at. What it is not is a good reason to start using the power you have to try and force an increase in penalties for the offence you were the victim of.

That's why we have things like the Law Reform Commission - sober minded people who can weigh and assess all the factors before recommending what, if any, changes need to be made.

Below is a photo of the damage, and it is awful.
Moving on:
Let's be clear.  The entire basis for his call for change is the fact that he has seen graffiti around his local area? And the fact that there is graffiti means that only "strong and aggressive" laws can combat vandalism?

Has he done any research into present penalties? Does he even know what the penalties are? Does he direct the reader to a report calling for harsher penalties? Can he perhaps indicate a foreign jurisdiction where "strong and aggressive" laws resulted in a sudden end to graffiti?

Of course he doesn't.  He's pulling this all from a certain area not mentioned on polite blogs.

Reading on:
Hang on.  He hasn't even discussed this with the AG OR the Police Minister? He is calling for these simply extraordinary penalties without having discussed it with ANYONE other than the poor sod who he got to write this piece?

And let's have a look at what his suggestion is.

Mandatory Gaol? For GRAFFITI? Is he actually crazy?

We all saw how well mandatory detention went in the Northern Territory. We all know how much it costs to keep someone in gaol. We all know that gaols are called Universities of Crime for a reason.

What else? Lifelong bans on Driving? I've written previously about how dumb it is to take licences away from graffiti vandals, so I won't repeat myself. But seriously - for life?
Oh good, naming and shaming.  First of all, if you think the prospect of having your name read out in parliament as being a graffiti vandal is going to stop them, then you really don't understand teenagers AT ALL. If they are smart enough to work Hansard (and that's not a given) I guarantee the extract will be on Facebook within the hour.

When people tag something, they use their "tag".  It's not usually their name, but it is an identifier. As I ride this train, I have no idea who NUEKS is, but I sure as heck know he was here, because his tag is scrawled all over the windows. That's the point!

Of course, had Elliott done five minutes of research he would know this. I suppose, however, that is less fun than grand-standing for attention by promoting a brainless new scheme that won't fix the problem, but will make a few Baby Boomers in their McMansions nod furiously.
Vandalism does cost everyone. And ridiculous politicking like this costs us even more.

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