At­tacks must stop

Sackville Tribune - - OPINION -

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?

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