EDITORIAL: Graffiti a costly crime

When Mack Laing lived in his Comox residence, he probably hadn’t considered that graffiti would someday cover the walls of his house.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Each side of the house known as Shakesides contains graffiti. One of the drawings is quite impressive — a large head with curly black hair and defined facial features. Some might consider it to be art. But it’s also a crime.

Who pays for graffiti removal? We do. The taxpayers.

In big cities, graffiti vandalism is indicative of gang activity. It contributes to lowered property values, lost business and overall decay.

Though not as prevalent in the Comox Valley, graffiti can still be an expensive problem. The rule of thumb is one to three dollars per square foot of surface removal. Typically, the cost of removal varies from $100 to $250 per site. However, costs can increase when certain factors come into play: type of surface, type of paint or ink, weather conditions at time of removal, location of tags, and whether chemical paint removers and/or power washing is required. There’s also contractor fees. Most charge a standard rate for set-up, ranging from $50 to $100.

“Graffiti removal is terribly expensive no matter how one looks at it,” a local administrator said.

Last year, the City of Courtenay spent about $4,700 on properties — not just buildings — for graffiti removal. Not a huge sum, but enough to maintain or kickstart a community program initiated by a non-profit or individual.

Municipal councils are constantly faced with requests from well-intentioned people seeking financial assistance for any number of social, cultural and educational programs. If only they could help them all — but there’s only so much money in the pot. And the pot gets smaller each time a staff member has to waste time and money cleaning a defaced building.

Kudos to schools and community groups that have initiated graffiti walls. These tend to encourage murals, which constitute art.

Graffiti on property that is not one’s own, doesn’t. That is vandalism.

–Scott Stanfield

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