Targeting vandals a tricky business

A Ballina Shire Councillors suggestion to publicise the cost of vandalism to the town as a deterrent would likely backfire and achieve the opposite, according to another councillor.

Cr Sharon Cadwallader had asked at last months meeting whether Council could advertise the cost of vandalism and detail incidents through newspapers and schools as a way to address the problem.

Cr Cadwallader said the idea was a sort of peer pressure way to address the issue which could make a difference.

She said the cost of vandalism could be analysed and publicised in terms of what facilities could have been funded with that money such as sporting fields or skate parks to benefit young people in the shire.

But council staffwarned that publicising vandalism had to carefully handled as it could provide notoriety or a challenge for the offenders.

In a report tabled at the meeting, staff said the message of the extent and cost of damage, if handled carefully, could be relayed to the community along with encouragement to report offenders.

Cr Cadwalladers idea came under fire from several councillors with Cr Peter Moore saying the idea to shame and blame young people rather than engage them would not work and only achieve the opposite of what it set out to do.

Cr Moore said that seeing a knocked-down street sign recently made him angrier than vandalism such as graffiti.

Cr Keith Johnson said that to suggest to people that because of this you didnt get that was really quite dodgy while Cr David Wright described the idea as a beat up.

Council is currently investigating the use ofclosed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) in known trouble spots as another tool to prevent vandalism and a report with costings is due for consideration with Councils management plan later this year.

Mayor Phil Silver said CCTVs were supported by everyone in principle but there would be no point in pushing for them till council staff had identified a funding source.

Staff said that at this stage, the preferred option to deal with vandalism was for Council to closely work with police through their crime prevention officer, ensuring a coordinated approach, and to use that officer to coordinate publicity of such crime.

Councillors unanimously backed that option.

Councils civil services group manager John Truman said vandalism on public property in the shire had cost around $70,000 in the past couple of years.

Recently, vandalism at Ballina District Hospital was estimated to have cost several thousand dollars.

Councils acting general manager Paul Hickey said most incidents of vandalism in the shire involved damage to public toilet blocks, street lights and signs.

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