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Heightened Security around Sydney Trains to Stop Graffiti

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January 12, 2016

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The art sub-culture of graffiti has never been welcome by Police or Parliaments in New South Wales. Surveys indicate that 21% of people in the community feel that graffiti is an indicator of social disorder problems (i.e. lack of education, lack of employment or use of illegal drugs). Quite often graffiti is done in dangerous locations, such as, near train tracks, in train tunnels or on difficult to reach areas of a building.

The offence of marking any property or premises with a spray can is an offence that carries a maximum penalty of $2,200 and/or 12 months imprisonment. There are a number of other charges available to Police for people who commit the criminal act of graffiti:

  1. Trespassing carries a maximum penalty of $550.
  2. Trespassing on railway land carries a maximum penalty of $5,500.
  3. Destroying or damaging property carries up to 5 years imprisonment and 6 years imprisonment if you damage or destroy property in the company of another person.
  4. If you enter any property (trespass) with the intent of destroying or damaging property you may be liable to imprisonment for 7 years.

Courts also have additional powers relating to the sentencing of offenders who commit graffiti offences. Firstly, the Court may impose a community service order in lieu of a fine. The maximum amount of hours for an adult under these powers is 300, whilst a young offender may have to spend up to 100 hours scrubbing graffiti covered walls.

Secondly, the Court may extend the period for which a learner or provisional licence holder is required to hold their licence for up to a further 6 months. If you are an unrestricted licence holder, a “graffiti licence order” requires an offender not to incur 4 or more demerit points on their licence for the duration of the order. The order may be made for a period of up to 6 months. If the offender incurs 4 or more demerit points during the order, the RMS will suspend the offender’s licence for the duration of the order.

In September of last year, the NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance, unveiled that new security technology is to be rolled out across the Sydney Train network. The security technology is referred to as “Mousetrap” technology which uses motion-activated cameras to detect people who are breaking into or trespassing on State Rail property. Once the cameras are activated by motion, the cameras start capturing still images that are sent to Sydney Trains security monitoring staff. The security staff will then immediately dispatch NSW Police to the scene.

The technology has already been successfully used to detect a person trespassing at Chatswood in Sydney’s north.

If you think that the cloak of darkness may assist, think again. The new technology also has infrared capabilities and will detect people who are trying to take a short cut across the train tracks.

It is too early to tell, but this technology is likely to be strong evidence for Police who prosecute people for any of the above mentioned offences. Like any offence, the Police must be able to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. This technology will enable Police to respond more quickly to an offence being committed and provide strong evidence concerning the identification and actions of any trespassers.

This new technology enhances the security of state rail property and will hopefully provide a strong deterrent to people considering risking their safety for the sake of their art.

Graffiti artists should consider using designated graffiti spaces for their work in the Warringah Council area, such as:

  1. Millers Reserve – Manly Vale;
  2. Allambie Oval – Allambie Heights;
  3. Passmore Reserve – Manly Vale;
  4. Collaroy Plateau Oval – Colloray Plateau; and,
  5. Wyatt Reserve – Belrose.

Many other Councils have abandoned their designated graffiti spaces, including, Parramatta Council in 2009, Newcastle Council in 2010 and Blue Mountains City Council in 2009.

Councils ought to seriously reconsider their funding and support for graffiti artists. As an expression of emotion and identity, this form of art means a great deal to certain sections of the community.

About the Author

John is partner of Armstrong Legal and head of the Criminal Law Division. The experience John possesses, being a high quality mix of defence and prosecution skills, together with his team at Armstrong Legal, mean you can be certain of accurate, dependable and practical advice on how your matter can dealt with.

    1 Comment

  1. John Scholes


    Surveys indicate that 21% of people in the community feel that graffiti is an indicator of social disorder problems… do those surveys indicate that 79% of the community believe graffiti is *not* an indicator of social disorder problems?

    Good article. Enjoy reading your firm’s blog.

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