Monday, February 26, 2007

Graffiti Gestapo punishes the victim, not the culprit

The front page headline in today's Free Press is yet another example of City Hall's lust to interfere with businesses and property owners. As like the recent proposal to regulate drive thrus, it serves nothing more than to intervene and inconvenience private enterprise. The Freeps states:

A staff report on the agenda of today's meeting of city council's community and protective services committee recommends a new bylaw that would require building owners and others to remove graffiti quickly or face possible fines. If owners don't remove graffiti, city workers would. The bill would be added to the owner's tax bill.

This new bylaw, if passed, would make property owners pay a fine for having graffiti on their buildings. It would also force legitimate property owners to promptly remove it at their expense or else the city will. Of course, London's "Graffiti Gestapo" will not punish the culprits of petty vandalism, but the victim.

This new law has been spearheaded by councilor Bernie MacDonald, who recently championed another "anti-graffiti" bylaw which prohibits businesses from selling spraypaint--a legal product--to minors. This law is futile since teen vandals can easily get spraypaint from parents, friends, or just by driving outside the city limits. There is zero proof that this bylaw has worked at stemming graffiti. In fact, it's worse:

Last year, police investigated 391 graffiti complaints compared with 161 in 2005. and laid 125 criminal charges last year, compared with 93 the year before.
However, this bylaw has worked at dictating what legitimate businesses can sell to customers. Even more shocking, the "Graffiti Gestapo" has hired undercover teen decoys to snuff out law-breaking businesses:
Meanwhile, bylaw enforcement officers -- using underage buyers in a sting-like blitz -- issued tickets to dozens of retailers for selling graffiti tools to underage customers.

The tickets carry a $125 fine, although repeat offenders could be taken to court where they can be fined up to $5,000.
Wow, with this bureaucratic war on graffiti, it's a wonder that business owners aren't facing jail time. Bernie MacDonald is more worrisome about why we should stop graffiti at any cost:
"I've seen buildings covered in graffiti for months and months. If we're ever going to get this turned around, we've got to get it stopped and removing it is the best way to stop it. Otherwise, this city is going to look like one big slum."
You're right about one thing Bernie: this city will look like a slum--when all the businesses ditch this red tape paradise and run for the hills.


MapMaster said...

Now that Bernie MacDonald and council has decided that they're the proprietors of civic beauty, I wonder if they'll go after Canada Post to clean up every single bloody graffiti-vandalized mailbox in the city.

Jake said...

The city has blood on their hands as well. Just look under any overpass or bridge and you're bound to find graffiti. There are tags on city buildings like community centres and public washrooms.

Will the city take care of their own graffiti problem before hypocritically pointing the finger at private property? Of course not. "Do as I say, not as I do" should be the new motto for London.

libby van dyke said...

A "creative city" which punishes businesses displaying contemporary urban art?
There were some DJs on FM96 yesterday who suggested MacDonald and city hall begin a spraypaint and Sharpie registry. Great cause to squander unaccounted millions on.

Anonymous said...

talking about graffiti Bernie says, "You can't let buildings just go on covered in graffiti, you've got to draw a line somewhere,". You can't make fun of that and he has no idea what he just said is hilarious. Having met the man in person I can assure you the lights are on but no one is home.

mariposa said...

I've met Bernie too and couldn't agree more - definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer. London is one of the most anti-business cities in Canada. I'll send my opinion to my councillor - of course, that's Susan Eagle (help me, help me) so a lot of good that will do.