Forum aims to get a grip on graffiti

Citizens concerned about graffiti spreading through their neighbourhoods can learn how to get the upper hand on it at the Community Forum on Graffiti Thursday (May 26)

Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong

Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong

Nanaimo RCMP Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong, head of community policing services in the city, drives down Dover Road pointing out fresh graffiti tags on utility poles, lamp posts and mailboxes.

Armstrong admits graffiti is a pet peeve and when it spreads, as it has throughout north Nanaimo in recent months, she gets on the phone to the city and transport ministry with instructions about locations, so it can be cleaned up.

Some areas of Nanaimo’s north end have been hit hard. One can look down some streets and see that utility poles that have not been tagged are rare. Many fences suffer a similar fate. Portable classrooms behind one elementary school have large balloon letters spray-painted across the walls.

“This stuff drives me crazy,” Armstrong said. “I can appreciate that it’s an art form, I can appreciate that, but do it on your own private property. Don’t use other people’s private property. You know, if I was to write all over your nice house, how would you feel?”

Graffiti and vandalism costs the city more than $100,000 for cleanup and repairs annually. Nanaimo public works spent more than $67,000 cleaning graffiti in 2009 and budgeted close to $71,000 in 2010.

Insurance against vandalism, combined with cleanup and repair costs for graffiti and vandalism, add about $10,000 to the price of new homes. The perception that there is criminal and drug activity in neighbourhoods where graffiti is visible also lowers property resale values.

Graffiti might be gaining ground in some parts of Nanaimo, but has been beaten back in neighbourhoods where the public has taken charge of and stayed on top of the problem by cleaning and painting over graffiti as soon as it crops up.

South Nanaimo neighbourhoods, downtown and the Old City Quarter are practically graffiti-free. Armstrong said the school district has also experienced a steep decline in graffiti and vandalism this year.

Citizens concerned about graffiti spreading through their neighbourhoods can learn how to get the upper hand on it at the Community Forum on Graffiti being hosted by the City of Nanaimo Graffiti Task Force at John Barsby Community School, Thursday (May 26) at 7 p.m.

There will be an information session followed by a panel discussion with members from Nanaimo RCMP, City of Nanaimo public works, city bylaw enforcement, Nanaimo school district facilities maintenance, and the Downtown Nanaimo Improvement Association.