Colwood bylaw enforcement manager Kevin Atkinson said the City's anti-graffiti program has helped quash spray-paint vandalism in the community. Council has made the program permanent.

Anti-graffiti program in Colwood made permanent

Rather than sitting around watching paint dry, Colwood council has taken action and voted to continue the Graffiti Outreach Program.

Rather than sitting around watching paint dry, Colwood council has taken action and voted to continue the Graffiti Outreach Program.

Initial funding for the initiative was for a six-month pilot project that started in October 2011. With the end of the program falling in the middle of the City’s budget process in April, mayor and council decided to vote on the funding early so that the program can continue uninterrupted.

Council voted to have the project placed in the core budget, which should extend the life of the anti-graffiti project indefinitely. The program is budgeted at $31,000 for 2012, rising slowly to $50,397 by 2016.

Colwood bylaw enforcement officer Kevin Atkinson said goals for the six-month project were achieved in the first three months and the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.

Of the graffiti catalogued in Colwood, 80 per cent has been removed. As the weather gets better the remaining graffiti will be also be tackled, Atkinson said.

In the first six months of 2011 Atkinson said graffiti damage cost the City more than $10,000 in cleanup costs. In the second half of the year, which saw the introduction of the program, that figure dropped to $1,200.

The pilot project itself cost about $20,000, mainly as salary for the part-time anti-graffiti bylaw officer Phil Williams.

Atkinson said direct savings to the City, along with the spinoff benefits of the program, make it well worthwhile.

“It just makes your community feel safer, so people have a better feeling about their community” Atkinson said. “It’s a win-win situation when you can deal with this stuff in a proactive manner.”

By working with the probation agency at the Western Communities Courthouse, Colwood has also developed a “restorative justice” approach to dealing with youth convicted of graffiti vandalism.

The youth pay a fine but also do community service by cleaning graffiti. So far two offenders have gone through the program and Atkinson said the results have been positive.

“It had a very strong impact on them,” said Atkinson. “They went ‘wow, what a stupid thing I was doing and how much damage I was causing other people.’ People don’t consider the ripple effect of what they do.”

As the program moves forward, Atkinson hopes to be able to turn it into a service for other West Shore communities. He envisions West Shore municipalities coming together to pay for a full-time graffiti bylaw officer who works throughout the area.

“Everybody wants to give to the program because they see the benefits. They realize it’s not an isolated issue, it’s a West Shore issue,” Atkinson said.

“They understand that if they make their communities look better, people are going to be more willing to get out, go on foot, go shopping. Families feel safer. It just makes everybody feel better about their community.”