Home' Hastings Mail : July 5th 2011 Contents 8 HASTINGS MAIL, JULY 6, 2011
'Kron' became obsession for
both tagger and his tracer
Vandal: Blair Kitchen appears in court charged
with criminal damage. He faces a reparation
bill of more than $100,000.
Photo: DOMINION POST
Kitchen's tag: One of New Zealand's most prolific graffiti vandals was caught with the help of
an obsessed council worker who can track offenders by their tags. Tony Wall meets Hastings'
Tag wrestling: Tracking ''Kron'' became an obsession for environment enhancement officer
Jacqui Davis. ''This guy was the bane of my life for two years.''
Graffiti was my drug.
Blair Kitchen, the Hastings man who
became one of the district s worst graffiti
vandals, has described how he got swept
away by the graffiti culture and had no
idea what damage he was causing.
I didn t know I was doing harm to any-
one, the 22-year-old said before his latest
He faces a reparation bill of more than
$100,000 after admitting to more than 500
tags. Some businesses spent up to $20,000
removing his tag, Kron.
I was young and stupid, I didn t know
any better, Kitchen says. I was into the
skateboarding culture since I was a young
pup. Skateboarding, graffiti, hip-hop, it all
rolls together. I ve grown up all my life
looking at it and not taking it in. One day
I just went with it. I just liked the art
aspect to it.
Kitchen says he would use a council-
approved legal graffiti area under a
bridge near Hastings, but became frus-
trated because council staff would buff
(clean) away his tags before he could photo-
graph them. He tagged buildings because it
would last 10 times longer .
I did it for me, no one else. I wasn t on
drugs, graffiti was my drug. I wasn t in it
for the vandalism, I just wanted to learn
how to use the spray can.
He admits it became addictive as he
improved. Kitchen went to Hastings Boys
High and Havelock North High School,
finishing after year 12, and showed promise
It wasn t until he got a job at Jesters Pies
in Napier last year that he realised it was
time to grow up.
By the time he was arrested he had
stopped tagging, he claims, and was in the
process of turning his life around.
He says the $100,000 reparation bill is a
joke . He had been charged $200 for small
tags that could be scraped off with your
nail and charged two or three times for the
same tag. He is prepared for a jail term.
It seems scary for others to think it, but
at the end of the day, I did it.
He says media hype about his case has
led to a spate of fresh graffiti by young
copycats. But his message to anyone con-
sidering becoming a tagger is value the
time you ve got, don t waste it. You don t
want to waste it in prison. If you re into art,
take an art course, buy some canvases, go
to university .
When police finally tracked down
Kitchen he was living within a block of
where Jacqui Davis had predicted he would
Like a profiler tracking a serial killer
based on his criminal signature , Davis
knew the area where Kitchen was living by
studying the patterns of his graffiti. The
Hastings District Council s environment
enhancement officer had followed Kitchen s
handiwork for two years, becoming
obsessed with catching him.
For every bit of graffiti we remove, we
keep a photo, which is time and date-
stamped, so then we can start to track
We had worked out from the pathways
roughly where he lived. They ll quite often
chart a path backwards and forwards [to
their home], probably like a dog marking
their territory. It was within a block of
where we thought.
Drive the streets of Hastings with Davis
her eyes are constantly scanning for signs
You do get obsessed -- it gets quite
ingrained into you, she says.
Kron first came on to Davis radar in
2009 when she noticed the name appearing
on utility boxes and fences between Have-
lock North and Waimarama. Even then
there was a clue to his identity, as the tags
would appear during holiday breaks but not
during term, suggesting he left the area for
university or other training.
Then in 2010 we noticed the tag didn t
go away after the Christmas holidays, and
the locations of his tags changed to being in
town [Hastings], so we knew he was living
in town somewhere.
The Kron tag would often appear with
the initials DKK, one of the prominent
graffiti crews in the area which had a
Facebook page where members could brag
about their work through photos and video.
It is thought that Kitchen ran the page.
When he stayed around in 2010, he actu-
ally changed the face of graffiti in Hastings,
just because of how organised it was and
how prolific it was, Davis says. There was
a lot of scrappy stuff before that, but we
started to see the big stuff, the stuff that
was high up [on buildings] and the stuff
that was colourful.
By December last year, Davis s team had
collected more than 500 photographs of
I was at a conference in Wellington at
the beginning of December and drove along
the Terrace and his tags were along there.
This guy was the bane of my life for two
Midway through last year other graffiti
offenders provided Davis and police with
Kitchen s name. The breakthrough came
when a security camera caught him in the
After consulting handwriting and elec-
tronic experts in Wellington, police were
ready to raid Kitchen s home. He was living
in a garage behind a property in Parkvale.
Police found spray paint, Kron tags on the
walls, a photo of a Kron tag as the
screensaver on Kitchen s laptop and the
crowning glory -- his black book .
Davis says for many of them it s an addic-
If they can t get out and do it because
they haven t got the paint or the weather s
bad, then they re doing it in what they call
their black book -- practising, trying to get
Kitchen was shown pictures of his tags
and admitted 514 were his, including 115
on council property, 119 on commercial
property, 225 on power and phone company
boxes and 25 on private property.
Police charged him with criminal damage
under the Crimes Act, which carries
tougher sentences than wilful damage
under the Summary Offences Act.
Although the satisfaction of catching
Kitchen after spending so many hours on
his trail was huge , the mother in Davis
felt a little sorry for him.
It s such a waste of a young 22-year-old
man who could be going on to much better
things. He has no idea what a negative
impact he s had on this community.
The council is seeking $102,800 in repar-
ation -- based on a standard rate of $200 to
clean up each tag. It is New Zealand s
biggest known bill for a single tagger. But
last week, when Kitchen appeared in the
Hastings District Court for sentencing, the
judge was told Kitchen had little hope of
paying it. His lawyer is seeking a home
detention sentence -- police want jail.
Sentencing was adjourned until August.
Kitchen believes graffiti is art, and
Davis, 40, agrees. There is a place in our
world for graffiti art. I have a couple of
canvases done for me by legitimate graffiti
artists. Even some of the illegal stuff, dare
I say it, is very, very clever.
That s why they need to be shown that
there is a way to transfer that through to a
job, whether it be signwriting or car paint-
ing or making money out of graffiti art.
She says taggers don t fit a single profile.
The youngest one I ve dealt with has
been nine . . . and the oldest 31. I ve got a
couple of apology letters from two 18-year-
old girls. They apologised and said they
should have known better because they
were both mothers.
I ve seen a hedge tagged. Our beautiful
Te Mata Peak had a whole trail of penises
drawn up the roadway, it took us ages to
get it cleaned up.
The council s graffiti vandalism strategy
aims to intervene with young people before
they become hard-core offenders, getting
them involved in mural projects. The
abutments of a large bridge on the outskirts
of town have been set aside as a legal
graffiti area, as Davis says graffiti walls
used in other cities don t work.
We regularly get asked for graffiti walls,
but they don t work simply because the
[taggers] lose the buzz, and, once the buzz
has gone, it just spreads. Down at the
bridge there is still that element of going
down there at night, under headlights . . .
they re probably drinking while they re
Although most councils employ graffiti
cleanup crews in Hastings there is free
removal of scrawls from private property as
well, thanks to fundraising by the Keep
Hastings Beautiful Trust which Davis
works for. Communities are also issued
with cleanup kits.
The key is to remove graffiti as quickly as
possible, so taggers don t enjoy the notor-
iety that comes with having their name in
public for a long period. The upshot is that
compared to many urban centres around
New Zealand, Hastings has less graffiti.
This month the council is joining a
nationwide graffiti database which uses
GPS technology to locate and record images
of graffiti vandalism, allowing police to
access it by iPhone. That would have dra-
matically reduced the hours spent catalogu-
ing tags in the Kitchen case, for example.
Senior Sergeant Greg Brown, of Hastings
police, says Davis passion for her work
enabled Kitchen to be brought to justice.
You can certainly form a picture, but the
difficulty is knowing who is responsible and
getting sufficient evidence. Certainly
Jacqui s analysis of the trends was funda-
mental to putting the operation in place.
Davis says she enjoys the detective work
involved in her job. It s like being a police
officer without the paperwork, she jokes.
When I first started in this job and I was
out for dinner, I d say I m the graffiti lady
for the council . Then I learned that every-
body has a graffiti story, so now I say I m
the environmental enhancement officer. It
sounds better, and you don t spend the
whole night talking about graffiti.
Although her own property has never
been tagged, as someone who loves her
community, she takes it personally.
It s the old grandmas who ring you and
are crying because they ve found graffiti on
their letterbox and they re not sure what it
means. Or the Indian family who didn t
want us to take it off their fence because
they thought it would mean the [offenders]
would come back and get them.
It s the people who think it actually
means they ve been targeted for being
It creates a real fear. Those who are
doing it don t think of the impact or the cost
to the community.
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