Graffiti, or tagging as it is more commonly called, is out of control in downtown Victoria. It is not a nuisance, it is not art, it is a crime. And, it is not a victimless crime. Property owners, taxpayers, consumers all pay for it. It’s estimated that graffiti cleanup costs downtown business and property owners over $1 million a year.
Tagging gives the impression that no one cares about downtown Victoria and hurts business by discouraging shopping and dining. It also looks unsightly and impacts the sense of safety and security of workers, residents and visitors. The best way to stop the spread of graffiti (tagging) is to remove it as soon as it appears.
The faster graffiti is removed, the less desirable your property becomes to vandals.
For retail property owners, removing graffiti is time-consuming, frustrating and costly. But it goes beyond that; tags on heritage buildings require either painting over magnificently aged brick or using harmful chemicals to remove the paint and risking permanent damage. These chemicals do not help our local environment. Tagging written on rooftops is dangerous both to the initial tagger and the individuals scaling the rooftops to remove the tags. This puts lives at risk, and for what?
The City of Victoria alone has one full-time staff person and one half-time person who work diligently to remove tags from city infrastructure. These costs are passed directly to you through higher taxes and consumer costs.
In downtown Victoria our Clean Team alone removed 10,450 tags in 2018. For this year (up to June 2019) the Clean Team has removed 8,000 tags. If this level of vandalism continues, we are on track to remove 14,000 tags by the end of this year.
This level of vandalism can’t and shouldn’t continue. Enough is enough; the Downtown Victoria Business Association is taking action. We are working with the Victoria Police Department to target known taggers and tag locations. We are using cameras to catch taggers and the police are pressing charges. We are working with Crime Stoppers to put more eyes on the street.
Now, we are also asking you to be part of the solution.
Graffiti is considered vandalism under the law when it is written on private or public property without permission. And the minimum fine for anyone caught writing graffiti (tagging) is $750.
If you see someone tagging call 911. If you are a victim of graffiti, file a police report. Report graffiti on public property using your smartphone and the ConnectVictoria app. Document graffiti you see by taking a picture of the entire tag, including any small initials or marking around the edges of the tag. Make note of the date and time. Forward a copy of the picture to your local police department with your contact info.
Graffiti is more than a nuisance; it is a crime.
To find out more about how to remove, report, and record graffiti go to: downtownvictoria.ca/graffiti.
Jeff Bray is the executive director for the Downtown Victoria Business Association.