Saturday, December 31, 2005

Rail yard graffiti attacks prompt CityRail security fears
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By Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney Morning Herald.
December 27, 2005

THE amount of graffiti removed from trains in Sydney has quadrupled, prompting claims by the NSW Opposition that commuters are being forced to travel on "mobile ghettoes".

The Opposition's transport spokesman, Barry O'Farrell, said the increase in graffiti attacks on trains demonstrated a lack of security at stabling yards. "The biggest worry is that if the Government is unable to protect rolling stock from this sort of vandalism, it raises questions about attempts to secure it against other forms of threats," Mr O'Farrell said. "With the holiday season upon us, the Government must ensure commuters aren't forced to travel in mobile ghettoes over the Christmas and new year period."

There were 35,627 recorded graffiti attacks last month compared with 8077 in November last year, figures published on CityRail's website show. The Opposition raised a lack of security at holding yards last month after vandals broke into a bus depot in Port Botany and defaced 56 buses. But the Transport Minister, John Watkins, said security had not declined and the increase in graffiti removal was due to changes in reporting and the use of better cleaning equipment.

"The statistics reflect the effective job its staff is doing in the detection, reporting and removal of graffiti," Mr Watkins said. "In the past, affected carriages had to be taken out of service as seats were painted and were allowed to dry. Now, new cleaning products allow the immediate removal of the graffiti. Intelligence suggests this rapid removal provides a deterrent to graffiti artists." RailCorp has begun hiding closed-circuit television cameras in carriages and working with police to focus on catching leaders of graffiti gangs.

"We don't need more transit officers," said a spokeswoman, Helen Willoughby. "But we do need to dedicate police resources to graffiti and to track down the ringleaders. We know from our CCTV cameras that the graffiti artists are organised and tend to work in groups of three to five. They will have a watcher and then they will come in as a group with spray cans in their backpacks. They spray their tags which can be reported and fed into police intelligence."

Mr Watkins said RailCorp had introduced security guards and dogs to rail holding yards and had begun a 12-month trial of wireless closed-circuit cameras. A spokeswoman said: "In light of recent events in London, I'm advised RailCorp is undertaking a review of its CCTV system. It's looking at security technologies and arrangements which could further enhance the security of their network." RailCorp has more than 6200 CCTV cameras in the CityRail network and spends about $1 million a year on graffiti removal.

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