Hotline appears to be combating graffiti in city

Red Deer has been getting tough on graffiti in recent years, and the no-nonsense stance is starting to pay off.

The walls of the CN Rail underpass under 67th Street in Red Deer have attracted many graffiti artists.

The walls of the CN Rail underpass under 67th Street in Red Deer have attracted many graffiti artists.

Red Deer has been getting tough on graffiti in recent years, and the no-nonsense stance is starting to pay off.

“The program seems to be working; the intent has been to promote reporting through the hotline, which allows the city to contact property owners and encourage them to remove the graffiti quickly,” said Laura Turner, executive director of the Red Deer Downtown Business Association.

Since 2007, the City of Red Deer, in partnership with the Downtown Business Association and Red Deer RCMP, has been operating a graffiti hotline, which encourages Red Deerians to call in graffiti as soon as they spot it.

“The goal for taggers (people who do graffiti) is to see their work, they want to see it there for as long as possible,” said Turner.

She said Red Deer’s approach to combating graffiti is rooted in the Broken Window Theory, first introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982.

The theory suggests small deviances in social norms (such as a broken window in an abandoned building) eventually creates larger problems in urban environments. American cities such as New York, Boston, and Albuquerque have all used elements of the theory as part of their crime reduction strategies — usually with a specific focus on reducing graffiti.

Aggressively targeting graffiti helps maintain the appearance of social order, and in turn reduces crime and the feeling of urban decay, Turner said. She also said one study done by the City of Saskatoon found when graffiti is removed within 24 hours, the chances of it reappearing in the same place drops by nearly 90 per cent.

The Red Deer Graffiti Program includes a partnership with several local cleaning supply and consultation businesses, offering professional assistance and discounted services to those hit by taggers.

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, graffiti is considered vandalism. Offenders can also be fined under the Red Deer Community Standards Bylaw — first offense $2,500, second $5,000, and third $7,500.

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