A Google search for the word vandalism floods the screen with topics such as:
There are no clearcut answers, but community leaders world-wide keep digging for solutions to this pandemic of senselessly damaging property and breaking down infrastructure serving the community. Closer to home, municipal property including the buses and facilities of the GO GEORGE bus service is the constant target of vandals stoning buses, defacing shelters with graffiti or breaking shelter panels designed to protect passengers from harsh weather.
Asking all of the above questions, GO GEORGE management seeks to engage the community at large, community leaders and organisations, role models and influencers to actively look into the local situation.
Community influencers join the battle
A panel of six well-known community influencers have already agreed to become “the face” of this anti-vandalism campaign and to put their weight behind the effort to involve the community, to identify causal factors and to seek solutions. They are Morné Pietersen (Manager, Eden FM), Lloyd Bosman (athlete), Moses Williams (actor and comedian), Lizette da Silva (George Herald editor), Peter Jaftha (Manager, Heartbeat FM) and Zane Kirchner, former Springbok rugby player and assistant coach of the SWD Eagles. Posters with personal messages from each of these campaign ambassadors have been put up all over town.
Following an introductory meeting with them at the GIPTN offices last week, GO GEORGE Manager James Robb was thrilled with the input and ideas bandied about. “The value and insight these participants bring to the table are immensely important,” he said. “Their approach to the issue is fresh and creative. They reach members and sectors of the community that we on our own could never do, so there will definitely be an ongoing effort to involve more ambassadors from all communities to expand the reach and impact of the campaign.”
Multi-pronged approach needed
The lack of understanding of the value of property came up during the discussion, as well as the lack of respect. “If someone does not have respect for a bus stop that was provided for their community’s convenience, how will they ever have respect for other people and authority figures?” asked Lizette da Silva. “We could ask schools, for instance, to take ownership of nearby bus stops, at the same time teaching children respect, and how to take responsibility for the maintenance of facilities provided to them with hard-earned taxpayers’ money,” she said.
Peter Jaftha agreed with the concept of involving communities in their direct vicinity. “People in smaller communities know one another and the challenges faced in their area and will be more likely to get involved to solve a problem that is downgrading their community and its facilities,” he said.
Zane Kirchner could not attend the first think tank due to work commitments but confirmed his allegiance with the campaign. “I am looking forward to helping find solutions and getting the communities of which I am part involved in prevention of vandalism, as well as ways to stop it,” he said.
Morné Pietersen noted that many vandals fall outside formal structures such as schools, which makes it difficult to reach them and change their attitude. “Although there is a crucial educational component to the approach taken, we’ll also have to partner with and empower neighbourhood watches to become our community partners in prevention as well as apprehension of criminals. They are the eyes watching out for clandestine activities after dark, when the perpetrators are at their most active.”
This point was reiterated by Lloyd Bosman who is a teacher and has experience of the value of electronic monitoring via CCTV cameras at schools in terms of evidence, as well as deterring perpetrators.
Moses Williams as entertainer and active social media content creator gave input regarding the use of platforms such as TikTok to reach the youth. He has previously been involved in scriptwriting for anti-vandalism skits performed at schools by the GO GEORGE communication champions and will continue to support efforts involving the performing arts, such as the current rap competition for high schools.
Reward for useful information
George Municipality has recently approved a reward of R2 500 to persons providing information that leads to the successful conviction of vandals damaging GO GEORGE property and infrastructure. Informants should phone the GO GEORGE Call Centre immediately on 0800 044 044 when they witness acts of vandalism in process. Ideally, law enforcement agents should catch the vandals in the act, but photographic evidence will be very useful too.
Any individuals or organisations who are willing to get involved or share advice on addressing vandalism are invited to leave a message at the Call Centre or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.