FREMANTLE Council is set to defy a police warning that its new graffiti-friendly policy will make the port city a haven for criminal activity.
The Sunday Times can reveal WA Police wrote to Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt urging the council to reconsider its decision to no longer remove graffiti from public buildings if it is deemed to be art.
Instead, council officers will send photographs of the graffiti to the city's public art advisory group to determine whether it should stay. Though the move has been welcomed by local artists, police complain it contradicts the State Government's graffiti policy.
"Criminals will be drawn to the area," the letter from the WA Police Community Engagement Division warned. "We know that 73 per cent of those apprehended in police operations ... are engaging in other more serious offending behaviours, which will essentially encourage other crimes in the area."
Police said it would also result in more damage on buses and trains, posed a risk to surrounding councils and would damage the port city's tourism.
But Dr Pettitt disagreed. "I think this is progressive policy that will actually mean our staff can target their energy on the kind of graffiti that needs removing first," he said. "The quicker it went up, the quicker it comes down."
He questioned the validity of police fears that people doing graffiti would engage in other criminal behaviour.
"To treat people who are doing street art as criminals is not language I would use or encourage," he said.
"The fact is 85 per cent of our community supports this it's really quite a creative response."
Dr Pettitt also disagreed it would diminish Fremantle's appeal to tourists, highlighting the bus tours in Melbourne that took tourists past street art. "Our guys are going to be much more focused on removing tags really quickly and that low-grade nuisance graffiti and what you'll be left with staying up is quite creative street art," he said.
Fremantle street artist Reboot said the new policy would encourage a more creative community.
"To say that it's going to spread a lot more vandalism is incorrect and ill-informed," he said.
"If anything, it'll encourage more public murals, more discussion between artists and the greater community."
Reboot said most artists didn't want to see vandalism either.
"They don't want to be able to see tags or anything, but they do want to be supported and make sure some of our artwork, that we spend a lot of time creating, won't be painted over."
Reboot said he planned to submit several proposals to council so he could get permission to paint more of the city's walls.
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