( dpa )- The New Zealand government announced a crackdown Friday on graffiti tagging, including a ban on the sale of spray-paint cans to people under 18.
The fine for tagging has been increased 10-fold to 2,000 New Zealand dollars (about 1,560 US dollars), and offenders can be forced to clean up graffiti vandalism, which the government said is a serious problem.
"Tagging is a destructive crime and represents an invasion of private and public property," Prime Minister Helen Clark said, announcing the new policy in Manukau, near Auckland, an area notoriously plagued with graffiti.
"Its presence in an area also contributes to fears that the place is not safe," Clark said. "That, too, is destructive of communities."
The issue flared into a heated public debate last month when a 15- year-old youth was stabbed to death while allegedly tagging a property near Auckland. A 50-year-old businessman who owned the property has been charged in the slaying.
A government statement defines graffiti vandalism as the intentional, unlawful defacing of property with writing, markings or graphics. It says that tagging is the writing of a stylized signature on a wall or other property and is the most common form of graffiti vandalism in New Zealand.