OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Children come first, except when walls come first

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  • Rochelle Hume,

    Thanks for putting my thoughts into words so eloquently. Sure, I'd be pissed off if I had a gate or wall and it got tagged.... but I don't understand the Intense hatred some people seem to have for taggers.

    I may actually buy the Sunday Star times! :-)

    Warkworth • Since Sep 2007 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    i just love the whole
    - tagging is bad let's make it illegal.
    - and lets introduce a whole new generation into the prison cycle
    instead of
    - why do people tag
    - can we support their need to express themselves in other ways

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 493 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    With the “War on Taggers” (coined by the “delighted” Gordon Copeland),

    But for his lacking in hipness he might have thought to coin it the war on otara tagg3rs

    How do those trends look if you split the 'violence' figures into more specific categories of severity, Keith? Does it change things in any significant way?

    I may actually buy the Sunday Star times! :-)

    If you also pick up a copy of the Herald on Sunday, you'll be putting a little more rice on Keith's table. (Or is this your subtle lawyerly way of exacting revenge for his Werewolf algorithm?)

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • Darel Hall,

    For me the tagger issue is not about a desire for people to express themselves. It is a desire to be noticed in a world that values being noticed. Creating alternatives may be useful and there are examples showing how public paint art reduces tagging (you know pictures of stuff, people perhaps even abstract art rather than stylized words which is psuedo tagging – and no, a McCahon comparison isn’t valid). Living in Christchurch and Wellington I also believe that is what I saw.

    For the tagged and those living in tagged areas, which is most of us, I think it is about a further erosion of power to control our environment in the last part we meant to be able to control – our home. That is why I feel so strongly about tagging and “boy racer” noise. Not so strongly as to be deranged, but happy that an effort is being made and hopeful that a more comprehensive effort including diverting behaviour opportunities is next.

    The “don’t demonise the young” line reacts to the outlier commentators and causes the argument to fly around what I hope, believe, and think is the bulk of the people who want action a fair bit short of a war.

    Christchurch • Since May 2007 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    a noteable exclusion from the rabid commentary around this issue is that tagging is always conducted "against property" by those who have none. that's a pretty important variable that someone should be taking into consideration.

    and there's maybe 20 years of initiatives to give taggers dedicated spaces in neighbourhoods. somehow these have been forgotten in the kerfuffle.

    just like the bloke who murdered that teenager.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Brislen,

    Can we just settle on some rules for the aforementioned downtrou (great spelling, I'm teaching my PC and phone at once).

    Who exactly must DT? Where and when? How do we determine the downtrouee and the downtrouer?

    As for the execution of the downtrou itself... well I'm not sure I want to know.

    Enquiring minds, dammit! Give us the bare facts.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    great spelling, I'm teaching my PC and phone at once)

    I can see how having that saved would be useful.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2074 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    tagging is always conducted "against property" by those who have none. that's a pretty important variable that someone should be taking into consideration.

    Like... we could ban people who don't own property? I can see this might have positive repercussions for the housing affordability issue.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2074 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    20 years of initiatives to give taggers dedicated spaces in neighbourhoods

    Have these worked in places where they were tried?

    I was impressed with an analysis I read that discussed tagging as essentially the personal application of branding (hence the obsession with stylised logo-like text). Taggers want visibility and prestige to establish their brand. I can't see where the motivation is as a tagger to confine myself to a designated area.

    But anyway, you can't explain the passion aroused by tagging unless it's a signifier for something else.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Snap! Lesley Boniface in the Dominion-Post on Monday:

    It is this completely natural state of affairs [the old hating the young - I/S] that is, I believe, behind the Government's current war on graffiti (in addition to it being a nice cheap way to gain a few extra votes). Graffiti is a young person's hobby that offends grown-ups' ideas of neatness, tidiness and social order, and therefore it must be crushed.

    For confirmation of this view, check out the name of the anti- graffiti initiative: Stop Tagging Our Place. "Our place", understand? Not your place.

    It is our place, you spotty, hoodie-wearing hooligans, and we want to keep it clean and pristine.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1661 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Something I've been thinking via Philip Ball's Critical Mass.

    People tend to imagine a straight-line relation between things like enforcement (or, say, social deprivation) and the amount of crime.

    But if you make a model where there the crime is socially influenced, then the more influence there is the more the graph starts wiggling horizontally. You basically end up with two possible levels of crime (a high one and a low one) for any given level of the other factors, and it's difficult to get from one to the other.

    I think this means it would take more enforcement than you would think to make a significant difference (but that difference could suddenly become enormous).

    Either (if we think tagging is important enough) this justifies a draconian response, or it suggests you may as well try to address the social factors.

    Anyhoo.

    Or is this your subtle lawyerly way of exacting revenge for his Werewolf algorithm?

    I have this image of Keith taking cues from his PDA in the midst of a roleplaying session.

    Eliza: Hello. I am ELIZA. How can I help you?

    You: I want to know if you're a werewolf.

    Eliza: Do you wish that youre a werewolf?

    You: Please don't bite me!

    Eliza: Can you elaborate on that?

    You: I don't want you to eat me. That is, if you are a werewolf.

    Eliza: Do you wish that im a werewolf?

    You: Well, if you were a werewolf, I would have to kill you. No offence.

    Eliza: Do you wish that i was a werewolf you would have to kill i no offence?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1096 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Or is this your subtle lawyerly way of exacting revenge for his Werewolf algorithm?

    Bloody LARPers :)

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1661 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    For confirmation of this view, check out the name of the anti- graffiti initiative: Stop Tagging Our Place. "Our place", understand? Not your place.

    While I understand the point the writer is making, and I'm sympathetic to the "you're just getting down on young people for cheap votes" line.

    In the line of Te Papa, "our place" could be inclusive just as much as exclusive. Possibly not how it's worked out in terms of the policy.

    And even if it is exclusive, that's not always wrong. I own a house, and I'd be pissed if someone tagged my fence. "My place" - damn straight.

    I wonder if there's any successful programmes turning the branding that has been mentioned above into more constructive media. Spraying/printing t-shirts and selling them - heaps more people will see your brand if you sell them and they wear them around.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6208 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    just like the bloke who murdered that teenager

    Pre-judging the trial outcome just a little bit here?

    Having recently made the transition from not having property, to having property, and having recently been doing those normal DIY things like painting, mending fences etc. I have to say I would indeed be mightily annoyed if some toerag decided my nice off-white fence should be emblazoned with their moronic 'brand'.

    Not, I hasten to add to the point of attacking them with a weapon other than hurtful words about hoodie wearing muppets, but certainly to the point of wishing them a painful time in the uttermost depths of hades, or perhaps the catching of a particularly nasty STI.

    A particularly interesting piece of research would be to see just how many taggers homes are emblazoned with tags? If taggers emblazon their own homes, then there may be something to the brand argument, if not, then perhaps another driver is at work (possibly even just destruction for its own sake - a fair proportion of us were teenage boys once and remember this motivation - although most of us managed to resist it...)

    Perhaps a fitting form of punishment for taggers would be to allow the taggers victims to come and tag the taggers home.... Imagine the rep hit you'd take having a bunch of crusty middle aged peoples tags on the fence outside yo crib....

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 262 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1096 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Graham,

    this is not about the tagging, but about the taggers

    I beg to differ - it's not about the taggers, either. It's about the voters.

    I can understand people getting pissed off at taggers. If my fence kept getting bombed I'd be bloody annoyed. I look after my property, I like it looking nice and the work involved in painting out a fence is a pain in the arse.

    But this whole thing about 'War on Tagging' and banning the sale of spraypaint to youth is all about the Gummint being seen to be Doing Something About It and playing to the fears of the population who have been wound up by media reports (is the Media to blame? probably, as is the Gummint, the Opposition and everyone except the Police) of rampant out of control crime, especially the violent sort.

    However, demonising a group of people who are disaffected, disenfranchised and have a general lack of respect won't get them to change their actions - it will only make them worse.

    As Billy Bragg said, "You don't turn criminals into citizens by treating them that way."

    Also - notice how the youth became this major problem in January but where are they now? And another thing - at least half of those killed or being killed WEREN'T YOUTH!

    I keep seeing a call for zero tolerance from assorted People Who Are Concerned. Well, for their general information, 'Zero Tolerance' was an internal policy adopted by Guiliani's then Police Chief to get his assorted area captains to aim at reduced crime targets within a time frame and if they didn't meet them, then they got fired. 'Broken Windows' is the policy they mean, whereby Police jumped on small crimes in an area in the belief that it would prevent the perps from moving on to bigger crime. Too bad it has since been discredited.

    And I alway wonder - for all those people who criticise alternative proposals to dealing with crime in society other than jail and beatings, can they actually identify anyone out there who is actually FOR crime?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 179 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna,

    At Webstock, Liz Danzico showed a fabulous slide of a New York Subway sign that had been tagged - if you've ever ridden the subways there, you'll know that they're not always the easiest things to understand, so on a sign that said " 'C' and 'E' trains" someone had very helpfully added "Downtown". I like the idea of tagging functioning like that, as a way of making environments better. Likewise, I loved the people who doctored the pedestrian figures on the very not-pedestrian friendly Karo drive. They were reclaiming their own space.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 727 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    Oh my lawd what a lot of liberal twaddle! This is going to be a long post, so for the benefit of those tuning out already let me start with The Solution. Everyone who thinks 'tagging isn't that bad and we shouldn't be labeling these kids as criminals' can erect a sign on their fence saying "Tagging OK Here!". The government can issue these signs to anyone who wants one, and kids can be free to tag those 'authorised' walls as they please. And to protect the rest of us, the Government can pass a law imposing severe penalties on anyone who tags an unauthorised wall (or requests an Official Sign and puts it on a wall other than their own).

    It's as simple as that. If you think tagging is OK then you should stick up a sign letting the local kids know it's okay on your wall.

    Ah, but some of you don't want your walls tagged -- you're not saying 'it's okay', you just think that these are poor mistunderstood kids with not a lot going on for them and they have esteem issues and surely there is a better way of handling the problem than making them 'criminals'.

    Okay, let me school ya with a little knowledge (he says, trying to remember the street lingo from last century when he used to run with a crowd that were familiar with spray cans):

    Kids tag walls because they can. They do it for the same reason they used to steal wheel trims (anyone old enough to remember that?) or pinch milk money. They do it because they are bored, there's nothing else to do (not true, but organised sport/youth groups are Not.Cool.), and it's exciting! And because they can (I can't emphasize that enough). They are not interested in doing proper graffiti 'murals' because that is too hard and they are lazy kids who just want to be 'famous' by throwing up their scawl wherever they can.

    The reality is that they are not famous at all, and probably only 20 people 'know' their tag. How do they 'know'? - because at school little Johnny 'WastR' is telling all his chums how he went out last nite and tagged the whole of X Street and then went all the way down Y Avenue , and even climbed onto the awning at Z Superette and tagged that too and if you catch the #234 Bus you'll see them all.

    Okay, so you already knew that they were deluding themselves in thinking they're 'famous' when we all know they're not. Your point is 'why make them criminals?' Because it is a crime and if kids learn that there are no consequences then we will have anarchy. Stop laughing, I'm serious. I know from my own 'crew' that the majority will outgrow it and lead 'normal' 'productive' lives. But a minority will 'go off the rails' because they've learnt 'anything goes'.

    You can argue that these kids who 'go off the rails' would have done so anyway but surely it's better to catch them young before they progress to more serious crimes? That's the 'Broken Window' philosophy, which is a debate in itself. But I agree with the thrust of it - the kids know what they're doing is illegal but they don't care because there are no consequences.

    No-one disagrees with the "It's Not OK" Family Violence campaign, so why is it so hard to accept the idea that these kids should be told it's not okay to tag other people property? Because if you don't teach that then some will think it's okay to steal your property, or give you a beat down in the street just to prove to their 'boyz' how 'Gangsta' they are.

    To which you respond 'we've always had petty thieving, and public assaults'. At which point I give up arguing and refer you to The Solution above. And I can guarantee that anyone who puts up a sign saying It's OK To Tag My Fence will take it down soon after, complaining to all and sundry that you tried to do something positive for the kids but they ruined it for everyone by tagging your house as well.

    Why did they tag your house? Because everyone else has tagged your fence and they wanted to be seen, to be noticed, to be 'famous'.

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Pre-judging the trial outcome just a little bit here?

    hmmm... current information is "angry man stabs youth. youth dies".

    even if the verdict is watered down, it's murder in my books.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    In relation to the lack of consequences thing, I agree. I can recall quite a few impulses of my own that were not acted on, purely due to the liklihood of getting smacked upside the head by the owner of the property I was tempted to do various things to. In those cases, the consequence outweighed the reward.

    Perhaps part of the problem now is to do with the perception that the teens everyone is talking about are well aware that they have 'rights', but apparently only a limited understanding of the 'responsibilities' that go hand in hand with them. The reward vs. consequence curve for modern kids is skewed a lot more towards the reward, which is quite probably not a good thing in the long run.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 262 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    current information is "angry man stabs youth. youth dies".

    even if the verdict is watered down, it's murder in my books.

    What if the story is, man hears people (more than one) vandalising his property, goes out to confront them and get them to stop. Fearing being attacked when he does - he's middle-aged, they're presumably young; he's alone, they're at least two - he grabs something from the kitchen. He's not intending to use it, not even in self defence, just to stop it getting that far because they'll think setting on him's not worth the risk. He tells them to clear off, they don't, things get heated, some shoving or something, he fears for his safety if not his life, someone gets stabbed.

    Still murder? Manslaughter? Self-defence (i.e. nothing)?

    You can't use much force to defend your property, but you can use it to defend yourself when you fear for yourself because you're protecting your property. It's a fine line - let's not jump to conclusions either way.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    let's look at the story Lyndon linked to above:

    Since graffiti prevention co-ordinator Bruce Wood started last October there has been a decrease in the amount of tagging and an increase in the number of prosecutions for willful damage.

    Whilst one story does not a summer make, I'd suggest that the Shore kids have realised that since someone is prosecuting taggers, maybe it's not worth the risk.

    But it's also possible they're just tagging somewhere else now .... maybe we should expend taxpayers money on an 18 month study to determine which factors are at play and whether a model can be produced that might achieve positive outcomes in other regions? This presumes that the North Shore outcome is positive. Someone should also check to see if a decrease in tagging has led to an increase in decreasing self esteem amongst youth.

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Accepting I/O and A S' points for the moment - doesn't it still seem that the current focus on tagging is disproportionate to the crime?

    Tell you what would interest me anyway. Have penalties for wilful damage kept pace with inflation? Are prosecution rates what they used to be? Maybe I/O is on the money, and old deterrents aren't what they used to be.

    I don't know whether current penalties and chances of getting caught are the same as when I was a teenager (80s) or not. That would be very relevant to this debate, I think.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    I don't know whether current penalties and chances of getting caught are the same as when I was a teenager (80s) or not. That would be very relevant to this debate, I think.

    That was in my long post originally but I edited it out for brevity. 20 years ago I was never caught, so one could argue that little has changed. But back then we knew we could be caught and if we did we would be in a lot of trouble. Nowadays? Nothing really happens if you're caught.

    I'm not proposing that we lock up 12-14 y.o. kids, but I do feel they need to see/feel the consequences of their actions. Painting out tags is good, but something stronger is presumably necessary for habitual offenders.

    20 years ago tagging was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today, and I have to wonder if that's because it's gone on relatively unchecked.

    [FYI - before anyone accuses me of being a hypocrite: I was never a tagger, I did (as part of a crew) whole walls. As I've said before, tagging is just pissing on a lamp-post to mark your territory.]

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    A particularly interesting piece of research would be to see just how many taggers homes are emblazoned with tags?

    I can't imagine very many taggers own their own home. And no landlord (particularly if the landlord is Ma or Pa) is going to be impressed if you've spraypainted all over their house.

    But I agree with the thrust of it - the kids know what they're doing is illegal but they don't care because there are no consequences.

    The big assumption with any punishment model of dealing with crime (see, eg, death penalty), is that it assumes that people think beforehand "Ooh, I might get caught doing this, and then XXXX will happen." People don't commit crimes thinking about what will happen if they're caught, normally people commit crimes thinking about how they're going to get away with it.

    As far as I know, the best way to deal with this sort of crime is some sort of rehabilitation/community justice. Make them go around and clean it all up and apologise to everyone in the neighbourhood and have the grannies tell them off, and then fix up the playground and build a new swing set.

    So I'm fine with consequences, as long as the consequences make an attempt to make the criminal a better person afterwards. A big fine and a criminal conviction? That's going no where.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6208 posts Report Reply

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