Graffiti is to art what rape is to sex

Back in July of last year The Error Banner reported that graffiti was a growing problem in Newmarket: http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/4727559-graffiti-a-growing-problem-in-newmarket/

Should Aurorans shrug this off and adopt a smug sense of indifference and believe that this isn’t happening in our town?

Jim Jackson’s January 15th 2014 letter in the Auroran suggests otherwise, you can read it here: http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?p=5213

What is most interesting is where Jackson states: After asking a Town of Aurora Councillor about this graffiti, I was told by the Councillor that “Aurora has no official policy on graffiti”.

Not so.

Rewind to the July 15th 2008 edition of The Auroran and flip over to pg 10 here: http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?wpfb_dl=521

The headline reads “Graffiti committee completes work”. This is the town’s Aurora Graffiti Abatement Program that was so successful it presented to the Town of Newmarket in June of 2009: http://www.newmarket.ca/en/services/resourcelibrary/ReportCR2009-81.pdf

Captured on page 4 of the T.O.R. for the Town of Newmarket’s own Graffiti Abatement Program, it delves into policies and procedures that are in alignment with their strategic plan in 2 ways:

1.) Well Equipped and Managed – providing staff with sound policies and procedures with respect to graffiti

2.) Well Respected – ensuring that the town has plans in place to deal with graffiti in a timely manner

It is hard to believe that these key implementation pieces were not formaly captured here in Aurora.

We read in the July 2008 piece that “It was also recommended that the town partner with Crime Stoppers and the York Regional Police to establish a protocol for residents to report incidences of graffiti in Aurora via phone or email, and that the town maintain a graffiti site data base.”

So it appears that on Thursday, May 24th 2012 an Aurora Graffiti Day Clean Up Project was staged by Police and Community Together (PACT): http://www.aurorapact.ca/graffiti-clean-up. York Region Community Foundation reported on it here: http://yrcf.ca/pact-aurora-graffiti-grant/ and captured The Auroran’s coverage on page 11 of the May 29th, 2012 edition: http://yrcf.ca/students-tackle-street-graffitti-the-auroran-may-292012/

This appears to have been a one off event with no evidence of a similar effort in 2013, 2014 and nothing planned for this year, making me question how sustainable and timely the Town of Aurora’s bylaw department’s efforts are with respect to graffiti in our town.

It is that database element that needs to be re-evaluated with respect to particular locations and frequency of re-offence.

Using what is available online I started with this video of grafitti posted Feb 27th 2012:

I visited the site and noticed that not only had more graffiti popped up, but one of the pieces documented in the video remained. Here’s a still from the video posted in February 2012 which would be 3 months prior to Clean Up in May of that year:

Notice how one of these tags not only failed to get cleaned up during this effort but it has remained in Aurora’s Historic Downtown Core for over 3 years:

Why?

Because a citizen didn’t report it to the town using any one of the feebly communication methods currently in place?

Are we supposed to believe that by turning a blind eye to graffiti town staff is providing Aurorans with “an exceptional quality of life for all”?

Are we also supposed to believe that by not addressing graffiti in our downtown core aligns with members of councils’ pledge to address ever elusive “downtown revitalization” efforts?

If the town believes that they can push this matter uphill to the province they better think again. Former MPP Frank Klees said he would “investigate the possibility of provincial support for the town’s graffiti abatement program” here: http://www.frank-klees.on.ca/news/2003/2007/graffiti_Nov16_07.htm

This was followed up by a letter that reads: In response to your recent letter inquiring of provincial funding that may be available to offset the cost of hiring students in connection with the removal and cleaning up of graffiti, I have not been able to identify a program that meets your objective.

You can read the letter in full here: http://www.frank-klees.on.ca/news/2003/2007/documents/Collin_MrakisCouncillorGraffiti.doc

So much for a former elected official that claimed to “get things done”

This March 22nd piece in The Toronto Sun outlines how they get it done in Toronto: http://www.torontosun.com/2015/03/22/city-in-never-ending-struggle-with-graffiti

In addition to enforcement measures Toronto has developed programs to help foster street artwork where money is provided for paint and supplies if property owners who have received a graffiti violation notice want to replace the vandalism with art.

Last year, 24 mural projects were completed at a cost of around $22,000.

“Our experience has been that when graffiti vandalism is replaced by graffiti art, that the graffiti art is much less frequently tagged and a lot of it is not tagged at all,”

The city’s award-winning graffiti management program has caught the attention of other cities across Canada and the U.S., which have called up for information.

“The City of Toronto’s approach is being recognized more as one that has probably the highest potential for long-term success. It brings the artists, the property owners and the police and the city and everybody together saying that surely we can do something that works for everybody,”

Aurora’s approach however appears to be one that is completely void of long-term success.

If the town has a policy why aren’t they acting on it?

This is one issue for our current council where the writing is on the wall.

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