Oak Bay police’s school liaison officer says she’s glad her municipality takes a hard stance on graffiti.
“I can barely get out to a graffiti sight to take a picture of it before our (public) works guys get out and clean it,” said Const. Dorothy Junio. “We have no problem because they’re continually on it. … It’s pretty much not tolerated in our bedroom community.”
It’s a different story in next-door Saanich where public works crews there no longer have the budget for graffiti clean-up.
“We still will deal with profanity, anything that’s obscene and so on, but basically the account for graffiti removal, those funds were cut,” said Mike Ippen, Saanich’s manager of public works.
For the fourth year in a row, Saanich council has asked each municipal department – save for public safety – to cut one per cent from its annual budget. This year the $30,000 that was annually allocated to roads crews to clean up graffiti was scrapped.
Any scrawling on municipally owned walls, fences, street furniture and overpasses will not be removed.
The silver living, however, is it’s just the public works side that’s been impacted so far. The parks department will still clean graffiti from parks, solid waste crews still have a budget to clean bus shelters, and hydro poles and mailboxes are still to be cleaned by whoever owns them (ie. B.C. Hydro or Canada Post).
“Obviously, any service cut is a bad one. It reduces a level of service that the community has come to expect,” Ippen said.
Saanich police Const. Jenn Symonds, the force’s designated graffiti officer, says this decision could prove problematic, as a vandalized area will encourage more graffiti.
“If you’re quick at removing it, it lets these people know that that’s not an area that will put up with the tagging. But if you let it sit, then it’s: ‘People here don’t care, we’ll make this our canvas,’” she said.