City hires former Langford officer
There’s a lot of pressure on Colwood’s new ant-graffiti chief.
In response to a marked increase in tagging throughout the city, council approved hiring a third bylaw officer on a six month, part-time contract with the sole focus of reducing graffiti. Whether or not that contract is extended will depend on if he can make a dent in the high-price of vandalism.
Between January and June this year, David Cameron elementary was damaged by graffiti on 17 separate occasions, and tagging caused an estimated $10,000 in damages to city property.
Colwood senior bylaw officer Kevin Atkinson said if anyone is going to catch an offender in the next half-year, his new hire Phil Williams has the best shot.
Williams helped catch several high-profile taggers when he worked as a community safety officer in Langford from 2008 to 2010.
“He’s already trained and just hit the ground running,” said Atkinson, noting that graffiti was too big an issue for the bylaw department to take on without an additional officer.
“People want to see their tax dollars at work, and that’s what officer Williams is going to do,” Atkinson added.
In his first two weeks on the job, Williams recruited volunteers for his first “graffiti paint out,” scheduled for Nov. 26, to paint over tags.
He worked out a deal with Rona to donate the supplies for the paint-out, and the company will also offer discounts to residents removing graffiti on their property.
“Getting rid of what (graffiti) is already there is the first step, so taggers don’t get the recognition of having their tag around for a long time,” Williams explained.
Colwood parks staff have been vigilant about removing graffiti from public property, such as street signs, but taggers also hit private homes and businesses and provincial property, such as hydro poles and bus shelters.
“We need everybody working together to get the problem under control,” he said. “We’ll never get rid of graffiti completely, but we can get to the source of it by catching some of the prolific offenders, which would send the message to other taggers that they can’t do that here.”
Williams wouldn’t reveal exactly how he catches taggers, but he said the public can make it easier for him by reporting tags as soon as they see them.
And parents on youth should be aware of what their children are doing, he said.
“Parents can be held responsible for their child’s activity,” Williams said, citing a precedent-setting court case in Langford, where the parents had to pay for part of the damages from their son’s tagging spree around the city.
“Parents need to watch for the warning signs — if their youth are going out late at night or stocking up on paint, that could be an indication,” he said.
He’s also encouraging businesses not to sell spay paint to youth. And he’ll help council develop stronger bylaws to fine taggers.
Eventually, he hopes the cost of the graffiti abatement program will be shared between West Shore municipalities.
“Taggers don’t stop at municipal boundaries,” he said. “If the program is successful in Colwood, I’d like to see the neighbouring cities join in.”
To report a tag or to be a part of a future paint out event, call Colwood city hall at 250-478-5999 and ask for Phil Williams or the bylaw department.