Kitchissippi business and property owners may notice scrawled initials and illegible mottos appearing overnight on walls, fences, mailboxes and dumpsters in the neighbourhood. Those affected say it seems to be getting worse.
“Years ago I never paid any attention to it, but now it’s becoming an ongoing issue, like every weekend” says Nick Dirienzo, co-owner of Dirienzo and Saikaley Automotive on Spadina Avenue.
“You’re driving to work and you’re wondering if your building is painted or not,” he says.
There were 1,583 complaints to Ottawa By-law Services in 2012 about graffiti on private property. Of these, 92 came from the Kitchissippi Ward. The total is slightly higher than in 2011, when Ottawa By-law Services received 1,401 complaints. Numbers for last year are not yet available.
Though the numbers don’t imply a steep increase, the anecdotal evidence seems to indicate the problem is getting worse.
“It seems like this year a lot of people have been tweeting me and telling me there’s graffiti,” says Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Katherine Hobbs. “As soon as you have a nice evening and the weather’s good, you’ll see a lot more of this tagging,” says Hobbs.
Tagging, which the Ottawa Police Service’s website defines as “the quick and repetitive writing, painting or “bombing” of a word, name, symbol or acronym,” is the most common form of graffiti in Ottawa. Even meaningless graffiti has consequences for the community. Ignoring it can result in more vandalism, and may lead to increasingly destructive crimes, according to the Ottawa Police Service.
Graffiti becomes a bigger issue when it is motivated by hate. Over the past month there has been a surge in hate-based messages around Ottawa. Dirienzo’s business was one of the targets. The owners informed the police, and quickly painted over the message. This course of action is supposed to prevent future occurrences.
The Wellington West BIA receives an average of one to two calls about graffiti each week.
“It is important to remove unwanted painting from walls out of respect for the hard work and energy our business and property owners pour into making Hintonburg and Wellington Village what it is,” says Zachary Dayler, the BIA’s executive director.
The City of Ottawa’s graffiti management bylaw requires property owners to remove graffiti within seven days of being notified. It’s usually removed with pressure washing or repainting. The cost can reach hundreds of dollars.
“I think people generally don’t realize just how often it does happen because businesses clean it so fast,” says Hobbs.
Though quick cleanup is the preferred method of prevention, it does not always solve the problem. The external wall at Dirienzo’s business has already been tagged again.
The vandals’ persistence can result in endless costs to local businesses. Fortunately there are measures in place to help. The BIAs receive grants from the city for graffiti cleanup.
“All a business needs to do is notify the BIA and we will coordinate, most often within a week, weather permitting, to have the damage cleaned up,” says Dayler.
Residents who notice graffiti can report it online at ottawa.ca. If the graffiti is hate-based or the act of vandalism is witnessed in progress, the police should be contacted immediately.
Don’t ignore graffiti
The sooner you report graffiti, the sooner it can be removed. The likelihood of recurrence can be decreased by as much as 85% if it’s removed quickly.
- If you see graffiti vandalism happening, it is considered a crime in progress and can be reported by calling 9-1-1.
- If your property has been vandalized with graffiti, call the Ottawa Police Service Call Centre at 613-236-1222, ext. 7300. All hate-based graffiti should be reported to the Ottawa Police Service Hate Crime Section at 613-236-1222, ext. 2466. Property owners are responsible for removal of graffiti from their property.
- To report graffiti on public property (parks, roads, street signs, utility boxes, newspaper boxes or Canada Post boxes) or private property (residential, businesses, industrial), you can fill out an online form at ottawa.ca or call the City at 3-1-1. The City will notify the property owner of the graffiti and ensure the property owner removes it promptly.
- If you wish to report graffiti vandalism anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 613-233-TIPS (8477) or 1-800-222-8477. (Source: Ottawa.ca)
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