Businesses join fight against vandalism

By Allison Wilton

Some Centretown business owners are anxious to hear details of the city’s plan to fight the on-going problem of graffiti.

Roxanne Donnelly, manager of Herbs and Spice on Bank Street, says she’s had to constantly repaint and clean up graffiti left on the doors, garage and outside walls of the store.

“It’s not a nice thing,” she says “and we don’t appreciate it being done.”

To combat the growing problem, Bay Ward Coun. Alex Cullen successfully proposed the creation of a community task force last September.

The proposal is currently being reviewed by the transportation utilities and public works department to establish the way the task force will work.

One of the objectives is to build on the 1999 Graffiti Removal Project, by looking to combine all graffiti removal and prevention efforts into one and co-operating with the Ottawa police to crack down on vandalism in the city.

The 1999 Graffiti Removal Project was established to increase awareness amongst the public, about removing, preventing and helping police deal with graffiti. Local businesses, OC Tanspo and Canada Post were also involved in the project.

Gerry LePage, executive director of the Bank Street Business Improvement Area, says Bank Street has long been plagued with graffiti on everything from storefronts to bus stops and street signs.

The situation has become so terrible that LePage and other business people in Centretown have approached city council in the fall in support of the task force.

“Hopefully they will bring in a more comprehensive project,” says LePage. “We need a co-operative effort to fund the removal of the graffiti and stop the problem.”

Currently, the association pays for its own graffiti removal.

Christie Scheerder, police spokesperson for community development, says the police hope to help cut down the sheer volume of incidents and gang related graffiti.

“Graffiti can incite hatred,” LePage says of graffiti directed at minority groups. “It can create fear amongst the general public and there really is no place for that in the community.”

Scheerder says the faster the graffiti is removed, the more discouraging it is for the vandal.

Police say that reporting incidents is essential to the success of the project.

Somerset Ward Coun. Elisabeth Arnold says while acts of vandalism in Centretown appear to be ‘episodic,’ they are still a serious concern for business and property owners.

The transportation utilities and public works department expect to report to city council on the proposal in the spring.