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Clare NHW Graffiti Removal

The Neighbourhood Watch SA (NHW) team recently travelled to Clare to see the local group’s graffiti removal project in action. The group have been committed to cause, having started the project 10 years ago and gave us great insight into how the operation works.

It was a beautiful spring day with the Clare Valley canola just starting to bloom. On arrival to Clare Skate Park the team were greeted by a selection of Clare NHW members who were eager to get spraying. Sergeant in Charge Matthew McDonnell of Clare Police Station has supported the group for the past year and was also present.

Prior to our arrival, the team had already spotted a few tags around the park. Gloves on, spray cans at the ready, they quickly got going. It couldn’t have been easier, spraying neutral paint over the various tags they had spotted in the locality.

While the team were working through the tags, we spoke to the group’s Secretary Pam Datson to have a chat about the project. Here's what she said:

When did you start the project?

We started some 10 years ago. There was a lot of graffiti in the township spread over buildings in the main street, lamp posts in various streets and also on fences.

Why did you start cleaning up graffiti all those years ago?

Senior Constable Mark Hill, who was working with us at the time, asked if we were willing to attack the issue - as I said the graffiti was quite bad at that time. A small group of about eight NHW members got together after speaking to Mark and planned out what we would do. We wanted to make the township graffiti free which would mean keeping on top of the situation for a period of time but we were keen to do it. We were hopeful that the message would be sent loud and clear, that graffiti was not welcome.

How did you get the project started?

After that initial meeting, we contacted the Clare Valley Council to see if they would be happy with us starting the project and they were which was great. Initially they provided us with the paint and brushes to do the work. The group came together on a Sunday morning many years ago and got a lot of it cleaned up.

When we were doing it people saw us and asked questions about what we were doing. It was great! We created interest from the local community and they thought it was an awesome idea. They could see the benefit of being graffiti free. It’s a tourist town with lots of visitors locally, interstate and overseas coming to the region. We all agreed it’s better to keep it clean!

That initial Sunday took about three hours to complete but as we did such a good job we now only have to do small follow ups, just the odd job here and there every few months. It’s important to keep on top of it.

How are regular clean-ups organised?

At our regular bi-monthly NHW meetings I ask everyone to keep an eye out for graffiti and to let us know if they spot any. I then go to have a look at it, and if it’s not a big job I’ll spray over it there and then. If however, it is a large job, I’ll enlist the help of another two NHW volunteers to help clean it up. The group members are always vigilant in keeping an eye out for any graffiti either big or small.

The main place we see graffiti these days is at the skate park and underneath the bridge that crosses the main entrance into Clare. This is manageable and is easily dealt with by using a can of neutral paint and spraying over the graffiti.

Why is keeping graffiti at bay so important?

At the present time there is virtually no graffiti in the Clare township because when members see it we go and get rid of it straight away. The benefits to the township are immense, we often get visitors reporting on how clean it is and that they like the way it looks with no graffiti.

We don’t really advertise the fact that we clean-up the graffiti as that’s not really what we’re about, we just want it to be a pleasure for locals and visitors alike to be able to enjoy the township in the best possible way.

What has been your most memorable graffiti job?

Last year there was an incident of a large amount of graffiti under the bridge and the person responsible for it was caught and made to paint it off under the supervision of Senior Constable Mark Hill. So since then we have not had any graffiti other than a few small marks on the ramps here, which is what we’re spraying today.

Due to the efforts of past and present NHW members we have made the township graffiti free, which is what we set out to do and it has been achieved. I really applaud everyone in the group for their efforts over the last 12 years. We’re very proud of our township and love the way it looks!

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