City looks to res­ur­rect ‘proac­tive’ graf­fiti-bust­ing strat­egy

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN mvan­don­gen@thes­ 905-526-3241 | @Mat­tatthes­pec

The city is look­ing at res­ur­rect­ing a stalled graf­fiti-fight­ing plan and giv­ing help to oft-tar­geted home­own­ers.

Coun­cil en­dorsed a mo­tion from Coun. Sam Merulla last week call­ing for an up­dated re­port on what the city can do to “proac­tively” bat­tle the scourge of pro­hib­ited paint.

The mo­tion calls for a re­turn to a 2014 ex­per­i­ment that sent a stu­dent worker across the city doc­u­ment­ing graf­fiti hot spots. It also asks by­law staff to re­port on the fea­si­bil­ity of help­ing home­own­ers fac­ing the cost of clean­ing up re­peat scrawl.

“I hear it from peo­ple all the time who are re­peat­edly vic­tim­ized,” said Merulla, ac­knowl­edg­ing be­ing forced to con­tin­u­ally clean up paint-splashed build­ings or fence walls causes “fi­nan­cial hard­ship.”

Merulla said he wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily ask­ing staff to ex­plore the idea of a sub­sidy pro­gram for home­own­ers, but sug­gested it might be pos­si­ble for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to help with “in-kind” ser­vices or clean­ing ma­te­ri­als.

The coun­cil­lor said he felt the 2014 sum­mer stu­dent ex­per­i­ment helped the city re­spond more quickly and ef­fec­tively to il­le­gally painted prob­lem ar­eas on mu­nic­i­pal prop­erty.

He said the pro­gram was ev­i­dently pushed onto the back burner by com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties, but “I’m ask­ing them very specif­i­cally to move it to the front burner.”

In 2014, the city spent about $300,000 clear­ing paint scrawl from its own prop­erty and fielded close to 300 com­plaints about pri­vate prop­erty. At that time, it was is­su­ing more than 100 cleanup or­ders to prop­erty own­ers an­nu­ally.

The proac­tive strat­egy in 2014 was based in part on an ear­lier “graf­fiti au­dit” con­ducted by a con­sul­tant that sug­gested the worst hot spots for il­le­gal paint were found in wards 2 and 3. The study sug­gested 10 pro­lific painters were re­spon­si­ble for up to 30 per cent of all iden­ti­fi­able graf­fiti tags.

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