Attacks must stop
The headline splashed across the front page of the Summerside Journal-pioneer recently, “Take off, TEKOE,” expressed the frustrations of city business owners and police with a recent surge in graffiti incidents. The prime suspect is a tagger who uses TEKOE as a calling card.
TEKOE has been painting his or her signature on private and public property all over Summerside and Charlottetown for the past several years, with sightings in Moncton and Halifax, as well.
Graffiti is a problem affecting every municipality in Atlantic Canada. Solutions are hard to find and identifying the culprits is harder still.
Of course, one person’s street artist is a business owner’s vandalism suspect.
Research shows that if graffiti is left for display, it encourages more vandalism as property values lessen. So the best way to discourage graffiti is by cleaning it up. It presents a heavy cost for the property owner.
Graffiti has spawned a new industry to clean it up, although the jobs created are a minor upside to a very big problem. There are a number of companies across Atlantic Canada dedicated to removing graffiti. One Halifax business, established in 1999, has already cleaned off more than 300,000 graffiti tags from properties in the region.
As graffiti taggers widen their art, businesses have improved their removal techniques. One company can remove graffiti from all types of surfaces, can apply graffiti resistant coatings, and offers products and services that are scientifically developed in and for Atlantic Canada.
Some cities have walls dedicated for graffiti artists, where property owners donate the side of a building so artists can make their mark legally and their work remains on display. It has certainly helped.
Municipalities are trying to grapple with graffiti through bylaws, increased police resources and utilizing Crime Stoppers.
Summerside has put a lot of thought into this issue, and has moved beyond a reliance on police arrests. City police and P.E.I. Crime Stoppers recently partnered to put out a call for information, with a potential reward, for information in the TEKOE case. Police are urging businesses to immediately remove any graffiti on their property – called Operation Graffiti Wipeout.
Police have taken to social media to address the TEKOE issue and are also trying a Youth Intervention Outreach Program, a diversionary pilot where young graffiti artists are asked to remove the damage caused. This would mean he or she does not get a criminal record. Police are also reaching out to schools where youngsters often hone their skills.
Graffiti is considered mischief under the Criminal Code. If found guilty, a suspect can face two years in jail. Graffiti artists should think carefully before defacing private property.
Property owners have had to spend a lot of money to hide or remove graffiti tags. Each attack could cost several thousand dollars to clean up. It’s unwanted and the business community is getting upset and rightfully so.
Defacing private property has to stop. Are you listening, TEKOE, and others like you?