The Scourge of Graffiti
As you’ve ventured out recently to walk the streets of
the Annex, have you noticed anything different? Resident Nicole
Stoffman certainly has – and she’s on a campaign to rid our
neighbourhood of the increased incidence of graffiti, or, as she
prefers to name it, “vandal tagging,” in order to distinguish it from
"graffiti mural art" which she loves.
In Toronto, vandal tagging is a crime. It might come as
a surprise to you, but property owners are required by law to remove
graffiti within 72 hours – or 24 hours if it is deemed hate and/or
gang-related. If an owner fails to comply, the city will do the
removal, and the cost of the work will be added to their property
tax. However, according to Heather Leger in Mike Layton’s office,
“The City pursues compliance as far as they can before they resort to
laying fines or taking remedial action themselves.”
Nevertheless vandal tagging costs our local businesses
upwards of $10,000 yearly to remove, and taxpayers pay an even higher
bill in the hundreds of thousand of dollars according to Toronto
Some may consider this a mere nuisance. But as Jim
Jacobs pointed out at a graffiti summit, his mother, Jane, always
said that property neglect is the beginning of a neighbourhood in
decline. Simply put, graffiti that is not removed indicates that no
one cares about the state of the community.
So how do we take back control of our neighbourhood?
This was amply illustrated to the south of us by the efforts of
Stephen Simpson, recipient of the HVRA Community Builder Award for
his work in bringing vandal tagging under control. As he says, “It’s
a fixable problem. It’s relatively easy to manage if we just have the
In the short term, we need to erase the tags. Paint them
over. Sand or power wash them off. And if you’re dealing with oil
paint on concrete there’s even a product called “Elephant Snot”
available on line from St. Paul, Minnesota to liquidate the unsightly
tags. For those reluctant to cross-border shop, there’s also WD40,
oven cleaner, and Goof Off to add to your arsenal.
Remember that vandalism graffiti is like litter: remove
it from your property and urge your neighbours to do the same. And
broaden your reach. Focus on the spots that bother you the most, that
you pass every day, and ask owners for permission to let you paint
out or scrub away the offending stains. Get yourself a can of white
exterior primer for the job, and invite property owners to repaint if
they want to colour match.
In the long term, there’s always the possibility of
encouraging true artists to decorate the large canvases of garages
and walls and fences. To that end, local homeowners might want to
connect with StART artist directory, https://bit.ly/3dMY6Nn & the StART Support
Mural Program: https://bit.ly/364ZxUI. The mural program is
temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, but you can still reach out to
the artists through the directory.