It?s war

COFFS HARBOUR City Council is fighting back against vandalism.

Over the past few weeks, The Coffs Coast Advocate has reported on the spate of mindless vandalism wracking our city and townships.

From unseemly graffiti, destruction of equipment and shelters at local beaches, and damage caused at the Botanic Gardens and the Sawtell Guide Hall, it seems a wave of vandalism is crashing across the Coffs Coast.

But now, Council is increasing the reward for information leading to conviction of people involved in vandalising Council property.

Current rewards for information leading to conviction are $750 for a general vandalism incident and $1000 when it involves the destruction of trees. Council has agreed to raise the limit to $5000 for information leading to conviction on all acts of vandalism.

Coffs Harbour mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said the community must be encouraged to work with Council and police to stop this senseless waste of money and time.

"Acts of vandalism are a society-wide problem, but it's our community which suffers through the loss of amenity, the diversion of funds from other works and services and the cost to ratepayers and residents," Cr Rhoades said.

"In the case of the playground at Park Beach, it's the young children and their families who've now lost out. Council may need to consider the removal of the playground altogether."

Cr Rhoades estimated the cost of repairing the playground shelter and equipment at Park Beach, and a shelter at Diggers Beach damaged earlier this week, to be $33,000.

"These are specific incidents, but there is on-going damage to street signs and other assets," he said. In this financial year alone, that figure is already $13,331.

"That means we've had to divert $45,000 of funds to repair this damage that could have been used to provide other assets and services to the city, such as improvements to parks, fixing of drainage problems and sealing of un- sealed roads," the mayor said.

But it's not only Council property being vandalised.

Michael Field of the Streetside Oasis Welfare Centre at Murdoch St contacted The Coffs Coast Advocate after vandals broke a window and signage.

"Obviously the vandals didn't realise that their few moments of crime will cost the centre more than the equivalent of an entire month's running costs ? including food parcels, meal nights and rent," Mr Field said.

"Who are these faceless criminals that, by their very actions, injure and steal from us all?

"This is not a victimless crime. Breaking windows and spraying buildings with graffiti is vandalism, it's a crime, and it hurts people, there are victims."

Deputy mayor Cr Ian Hogbin has suggested that Council look into trying to stop vandalism before it starts.

"We have a ready-made network of children, their teachers and parents who could help get the message through to stop it before it happens.

"We need to give them an incentive to create a culture where vandalism is discour- aged at the source."

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