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May 2009
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Hamilton helping hands tackle graffiti

Constable Tim Vedder helps clear bamboo at one of the reserves.

More than 1500 people turned out in Hamilton last month for the second ‘Helping Hands Day’, a joint initiative between police, the Hamilton City Council and the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Constable Craig Berquist, Community Constable for Te Rapa and the police representative on tagging, says last year a range of groups and police, supported by local businesses, came together to paint out tagging around the suburb of Enderley and around various schools.

That day was so successful a second planned day was cancelled due to a lack of large scale graffiti.

“Not wanting to dampen the enthusiasm of those involved this year we decided instead to hold a ‘paint out and tidy up reserves day’,” says Craig.

Community constables, council workers, church representatives and reformed taggers all worked together to paint out tagging, pull out weeds and clear dense bush around city parks, nature reserves and a bike park.

“The idea was to claim back our parks for families,” says Craig. “We targeted areas of scrub in parks near schools because that’s often where truants hang out – so the scheme helped other initiatives such as our joint agency anti-truancy programme as well.”

Helpers on the day paint over graffiti.

Photos: NZ Police

One of the main targets was Donny Park, a notorious truant hang-out behind Fairfield College where the dense undergrowth, bamboo and bush had become a haven for a group of students who burgled homes when they should have been in class.

The city’s rail corridor between the Hamilton Railway Station and Claudelands also came under attention.

Groups planted native plants in the wake of the clean-up teams. “It was a busy day and a top effort by all involved,” says Craig.

While not naive enough to believe the group’s efforts will stamp out graffiti overnight, Craig says the Helping Hands days are an important first step towards that goal.

“This is truly a whole-of-community approach to a problem. The real measure of success is how much the locals take pride in their area afterwards and actively discourage the return of the taggers, which is what we’ve seen in the past.”

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