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Victoria calls on citizens in fight against graffiti

Jun 22 2012

The City of Victoria wants people to report graffiti as soon as it happens as part of a co-ordinated effort to combat it.

"We really want to get people to get into the rhythm of 'Let's report this,' " said Darb Erickson, the city's downtown programs liaison.

The hope is that a co-ordinated campaign combining public awareness with prevention, remediation and enforcement will help the city in its constant battle against graffiti.

"One of the complaints we hear often [is people saying], 'Why should I care about graffiti? The police aren't doing anything about it. They never catch these guys.' But one of the missing pieces is there is nobody is reporting it," Erickson told Victoria councillors on Thursday.

He said people can help prevent graffiti by limiting access to parts of their building, noting that rooftops are often a problem.

"We also want to really support citizens who have been vandalized and supporting volunteer efforts such as campaigns to paint art over power poles that have been tagged," he said.

Some estimates peg the costs of dealing with graffiti in Victoria at more than $500,000 a year.

The Downtown Victoria Business Association alone has a budget of $144,000 - plus $15,000 in equipment - for its Clean Teams, which will paint over graffiti for free if property owners provide the paint. (For stone or brick finishes, the DVBA defers to professionals.)

And there has been no shortage of work for the Clean Teams, which removed more than 5,000 tags in 2011 alone, said DVBA general manager Ken Kelly.

"If individual business or property owners do not act quickly to remove graffiti, it conveys the wrong impression about the level of care which we have for our community," he said.

"It is not only important to that we remove the graffiti, it is critical that we identify the individuals who are the major perpetrators of this damage to our properties."

Coun. Geoff Young said it was important for the city to work with businesses and not have bylaw officers treat them as criminals because they aren't cleaning up graffiti quickly.

Coun. Shellie Gudgeon, a downtown restaurateur, said cleanup efforts over the past few years have made a huge difference. "It's night and day from where we were three years ago."

Several councillors said they thought the city was moving in the right direction.

"We need to be cognizant of the fact that this is a nasty battle, but it's incredibly costly to property owners and to society," said Coun. Chris Coleman. "We need to put more emphasis on this."

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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