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Oamaru police are calling for stricter penalties for petty vandalism after the Oamaru Railway Station was defaced with graffiti during the weekend.
Community Constable Bruce Dow said it was time the punishment for graffiti matched the nuisance of the crime.
"A small piece of graffiti ... can mean the whole wall needs to be repainted," he said.
"I have never understood why Parliament classified graffiti as less serious than straight wilful damage.
"It is punishable by a community-based sentence or a $2000 fine only. In other words, no prison sentence, whereas if you break a window it is punishable by three months in prison or a $2000 fine.
"The annoyance value is just as great and, in some cases, greater."
Const Dow said Oamaru, like any other town, has a serious graffiti problem, which was masked by the good work of concerned locals.
"It is just that within a week the Guardians arrange for its removal and it is gone, for the time being."
Waitaki Safer Community Trust restorative justice co-ordinator Derrick Beveridge said while most tags were recognisable, several new markings had been spotted lately.
The problem was once much worse, he said, requiring clean-up three to four times a week, in line with the policy of clearing graffiti within a day of its being identified.
The cost of the work ranged from "minor to hundreds of dollars", paid for from council funding and additional fundraising, he said.