'Criminal juveniles' on notice

GRAFFITI in Albion Park has reached a flashpoint, with one public structure being pulled down to avoid continual, costly clean ups and reports one tagger alone has cost the community $18,000 in six months.

Frustrated with the financial cost and visual impact of graffiti in the suburb grows, police, residents and Shellharbour City Council have met to plan a course of action.

The community meeting took place at Drysdale Reserve, Albion Park, last week.

Senior Constable Mark Scott said residents were angry that structures in Drysdale Reserve were being vandalised each weekend.

"The council has reached the point where they are going to pull down the rotunda in the centre of the reserve as it is costing ratepayers more in repairs than can be justified," he said. 

"One of the issues here is that local juveniles are causing the problem. The park is genuinely used by younger children under supervision by responsible parents.

"However, at night the criminal juvenile element, with what appears no responsible parenting, lurk about and cause thousands of dollars in damage through graffiti."

Police have received information about the identity of the offender using the tag "FOCUS".

According to the council, "FOCUS" has caused more than $18,000 in damage during the past six months to various structures in the Albion Park area.

Senior Constable Scott said the meeting had been positive.

"The residents are quite distressed and irate about what's happening to their park," he said.

"The council are frustrated to their wits' end regarding the continued repair of damage done nearly every weekend.

"Police are frustrated; so are residents and the council."

In conjunction with the meeting, police also conducted their GraffOff project, in which the area's young graffiti offenders work with volunteers to clean up graffiti damage.

The program aims to prevent re-offending and is a partnership between Lake Illawarra Local Area Command, Lake Illawarra PCYC and the council.

The command's youth liaison officer and youth case managers from Lake Illawarra PCYC participated in the GraffOff project at the reserve and other parts of Albion Park, painting over graffiti with two young volunteers.

Senior Constable Scott believed GraffOff, which was introduced by the command more than three years ago, had been successful in reinforcing key messages.

"The young offenders, I think they realise what they are doing is actually an offence and they are breaking the law," he said.

"The magistrates are starting to use it as a sentencing tool."

NSW Police and the council have encouraged the community to report graffiti at vandaltrak.com.au.

According to the council, there have been 82 instances of graffiti on council assets recorded on the Vandaltrak database between January 10 and December 31, 2013.

■ Police are appealing to the public for further information in an effort to identify the "FOCUS" tag offender.

If you can help, phone Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000 or Lake Illawarra Police on 4232 5599.

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