By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton may be concentrating its graffiti strategy in the hardest hit areas in the downtown.
But suburban councillors say graffiti remains a persistent problem in their areas too.
A $50,000-audit conducted by the B.C.-based MGM Management found that Hamilton’s graffiti hot spots are in wards 1, 2, 3, and 4, with about 50 per cent of the graffiti tags found in Ward 3, particularly in the Lansdale, Stipley and Blakely neighbourhoods. About 24 per cent of the tags are in Ward 2. The audit found that about 87 per cent of the graffiti is found on private property. Wards 5 and 6 were determined to have no locations with evidence of graffiti tags.
The information from the audit, conducted in 2013, has helped the city create a comprehensive graffiti management plan that staff is implementing in the most afflicted neighbourhoods, said Phil Homerski, information and business advisor for the city.
The strategy involves assisting victims of graffiti tags; prevention, which includes educating the public; and enforcement. This year, said Homerski, the city’s enforcement team will conduct a “blitz” focusing first on industrial and commercial properties.
But suburban councillors questioned why the city’s strategy doesn’t also include Stoney Creek, Ancaster, the mountain and Waterdown where graffiti is just as prevalent.
Stoney Creekcouncillor Brad Clark said graffiti tags have been found on area bridges and buildings, including the new Stoney Creek Recreation Centre.
“I’m a little surprised there doesn’t seem to be any interest in Stoney Creek,” said Clark. “There are still (graffiti) complaints from these wards (9 to 15).”
He said in one example the city removed racial epithets that were sprayed on a local bridge, but the other graffiti tags were left.
“We are leaving it to residents to resolve it,” said Clark.
Mountain councillor Scott Duvall said residents along Concession Street have been taking photos of graffiti tags and sending them to Hamilton Police, which has had a graffiti enforcement strategy for the last five years. Police have been able to make a series of arrests because of the citizen initiatives, he said. But he was still upset that a city program forces residents and businesses that have graffiti on their properties to remove it after 14 days or face fines.
Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge says graffiti remains a constant battle at the Waterdown skateboard park.
“(The youth who use it) are annoyed if it gets cleaned up, then it’s tagged again,” she said.
And last year about 100 stop signs in Ancaster were tagged with smiley faces, forcing the city to either clean or replace the signs at a cost of about $5,000.
Homerski said the city has improved its time to clean up graffiti on city-owned property. Staff is also working with railway companies and Transportation Ministry to remediate graffiti tags on their structures.
The city spends about $250,000 annually to remove graffiti and pick up litter from public properties under its clean and green strategy.
Other cities spend more on battling graffiti tags from about $750,000 in Ottawa to $1.7 million inVancouver.
Public Works General Manager Gerry Davis said next year the audit will be expanded to include the suburban areas.
“We know it is a problem across the city,” he said. “We will respond (to suburban complaints).”
The general issues committee approved a motion, introduced by Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, to examine the idea of hiring a summer student to study graffiti across the city.