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TAGS Symposium: Community Input

Archived Information

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Thanks to everyone who came to TAGS (the anti-graffiti symposium) on Wed., Feb. 18.

Participants of the TAGS workshop were asked to share their thoughts about graffiti abatement in our region. The workshop organizers invited community suggestions regarding public education, youth engagement in graffiti prevention, encouragement to business owners to remove graffiti, ways of combating graffiti, working together to prevent graffiti, and actionable steps to be implemented in the region. Below is a summary of participants’ ideas, organized by questions as they were asked during the workshop. The numbers in the parentheses show how many responses were given in the respective category.

What’s the best way to educate the public about the impact of graffiti?

Participants addressed three aspects of public education: communication channels to be used (21), contents of the message (7) and practical steps to be taken to combat graffiti (8). First, among the most frequently mentioned communication channels were:

  • media, including social media, websites, press, radio/TV, billboards (8)
  • a variety of organized events, such as small group meetings as part of some larger event or curriculum, support/educational programs, educational workshops (8)
  • informal engagements of youth, youth champions, families, and the whole community in conversations about the impact of graffiti on the community (5)

Participants felt that education should be directed toward the entire public – youth, their parents, businesses and residents at large. Several participants emphasized schools as target venues.

Second, participants suggested three major themes to be addressed in the public education:

  • cost of graffiti to the community and better ways of spending that money (3)
  • graffiti leading to more serious crimes (3)
  • tarnished image of the community (1)

Third, three practical initiatives were suggested to fight graffiti:

  • channeling youth’s energy in socially more desirable direction by providing incentives to go clean, involving youth in mural art and other productive community activities (4)
  • making graffiti vandals do the clean-up (2)
  • enforcing by-laws (2)

What’s the best way to engage youth in graffiti prevention/abatement?

Workshop participants came up with four major suggestions to engage youth in graffiti prevention.

  • the most frequent suggestion: educating youth about what is graffiti, what it costs to the community, where the money could be better spent, consequences to the vandals, opportunities for more productive activities, and this should start from an early age. Educators could be various speakers, youth champions, social media (18)
  • involving youth in productive activities, such as school programs, including clean-ups, opportunities to engage in mural art, other art forms and community activities (12)
  • reaching out to youth at risk to understand the reasons why they do graffiti and offer assistance, including mental health initiatives, restorative justice programs, or referral to Youth Justice Committee (6)
  • encourage youth to report cases of graffiti vandalism when they notice such activities taking place (2)

How can property owners be encouraged to remove graffiti from their properties in a timely manner?

Three major suggestions emerged regarding encouragement to property owners to remove graffiti from their properties in a timely manner:

  • assisting property owners with clean-up through providing free cleaning supplies and disseminating information about the availability of such assistance (16)
  • educating owners on negative impacts of graffiti and positive consequences of their timely removal (that is, graffiti is less likely to reappear if removed quickly) (5)
  • developing property standards and enforcing by-laws, including charging a fine (5)

Among less frequently mentioned encouragements were providing positive feedback and appreciation for quickly removed graffiti, encouraging neighbourhood pride and sending out reminders to absentee landlords.

What are your ideas for combating graffiti?

More than a half (25) of all the suggestions to combat graffiti involve some form of prevention strategy:

  • Educating the public, especially youth, about the consequences of engaging in graffiti (8)
  • Providing mental health assistance to youth-at-risk (4)
  • Providing various prevention programs for youth (4)
  • Making paint less available (3)
  • Offering youth opportunities to engage in legal art activities, including murals (3)
  • Providing youth with opportunities to engage in various productive community activities (3)

There were also other suggestions that go beyond prevention:

  • Punitive measures, including enforcement of by-law and public shaming (6)
  • Removing graffiti in a timely manner (5)
  • Making offenders clean up graffiti (4)
  • Enforcing property standards (1)

There were also a couple of general comments pointing out the fundamental causes for graffiti in the region: lack of community pride on part of youth and property owners, and lack of respect for the community. Some participants thought that more attention from the local authorities to youth issues could help alleviate these problems.

How can community groups be encouraged to work together to prevent/abate graffiti?

Two dominant suggestions emerged regarding encouragement for community groups to work together:

  • Cooperating amongst groups, with residents and law enforcement for a specific purpose, be it a community program, neighbourhood watch or other initiative to detect vandalism and remove graffiti (12)
  • Sharing information on the negative impact of graffiti and associated costs, and raising public awareness (7)

Among other suggestions were:

  • Promoting local art and other cultural initiatives (4)
  • Having support from the Municipality (2)

Which ideas – either from TAGS or another source – would you most like to see implemented in Wood Buffalo?

At the end of the workshop, participants were asked to vote for the suggestions regarding their implementation in the region. The following suggestions are presented in the order of preference, and the numbers in the brackets show how many votes each suggestion received.

  • Restorative justice! RCMP and bylaw partner with youth justice committee (7)
  • Utility box wraps/art program (7)
  • RESTart program (4)
  • Community mural where an artist does the outline and volunteers paint the blank spaces like a giant colouring book (4)
  • Promote how it’s related to “youth at risk” (3)
  • Free wall (3)
  • Local artists making the “street art” promotion (2)
  • Urban Art festival (2)
  • More effective bylaws and enforcement (2)
  • GIS interactive map showing frequent hotspots for re-offending (1)
  • More youth programs/drop in/free, different locales, gardens, etc. (1)
  • Mural projects/grants like Edmonton (1)
  • Social by-products of graffiti (1)
  • Our youth justice committee would like to use graffiti removal as a way to engage the at-risk youth we deal with. Get them involved with giving back to the community. Graffiti removal could easily be worked into their sanctions if we could partner with the RMWB, RCMP, bylaw, local businesses, etc.
  • Wipe out event – wipe out an entire alley or block
  • Letter writing campaign to absentee landlords of commercial properties via social media
  • Community and neighbourhood association
  • Share mural ideas
  • CSC bylaw

Overall, the vast majority of the suggestions that received any votes pertain to implementing productive activities and programs, including art events, followed by restorative justice initiatives.

If you have any questions about this report, or you want to participate in this project, please contact:

Alanna Bottrell
Community Strategies Coordinator
Phone 780-792-5968
Fax: 780-788-4393

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