Red Deer city council agreed to send a strong message to graffiti taggers by upping the fine for a first offence to $2,500.
Council was divided Monday on whether this was a good idea, but the majority voted in favour of a stiffer fine to demonstrate that property damage will not be tolerated.
“It puts the responsibility on perpetrators, and shows that we have a zero tolerance,” said Councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer, whose downtown business was recently spray-painted.
But Councillors Larry Pimm, Frank Wong and Buck Buchanan voted against jacking up the existing $300 fine to $2,500.
Pimm argued it was worthless effort since so few graffiti vandals get caught — virtually none were apprehended in Red Deer’s recent history.
As a retired police officer, Buchanan said he did not favour any legislation that was “not usable.”
Wong feared that if any graffiti taggers did get caught and slapped with the massive fine, it would be only inexperienced novices. “The higher-ups never get caught.”
But Councillors Watkinson-Zimmer, Lynne Mulder, Gail Parks, Cindy Jefferies, and Tara Veer thought the high fine would, at the very least, reflect how seriously the city takes such property crimes.
Watkinson-Zimmer said there’s a high cost to the victim.
She had to pay $30 for paint remover, which didn’t get all the spray-paint out, so she had to spring for new paint.
While Veer wasn’t keen on punishing property owners who didn’t remove the graffiti promptly, Watkinson-Zimmer said she wanted to see the vandalism scrubbed off or painted over right away.
Jefferies suggested by not cracking down on tardy landowners the city was enabling more property defacement. Studies have shown this happens when graffiti is allowed to exist on a building for longer than a couple of weeks.
“By not penalizing people who do not follow the (community standards) bylaw, we are penalizing people who do.”
Council discussed lower fines of $250 to $500 for property owners who didn’t get rid of graffiti in a reasonably quick time-frame.
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