The District of North Vancouver reported a “rash of graffiti” in Deep Cove in recent weeks, an area that doesn't usually have a lot of tagging activity.
“It's hitting out in an area we hadn't seen it before,” said Carol Walker of the District bylaw office.
"Graffiti is typically around Pemberton and Marine Drive corridor for us and more so in the city of North Vancouver and the bottom of Lonsdale,” said Walker adding that the extent of graffiti vandalism they have seen in past years in Deep Cove has been the odd post box.
An RCMP-led integrated task force is investigating the situation.
According to Walker, the taggers could be living close to or within the neighbourhoods where the graffiti is found and might be a newcomer to the area. They are also typically a younger age.
“We want to be able to rid graffiti from the North Shore entirely, not just move it around,” said Walker, “Eighty percent of those folks that are doing this sort of damage, it's a precursor to other crime.”
Fines for both graffiti tagging or allowing graffiti to remain on property are $200. But Walker said the bylaw office doesn't like to ticket very often.
“We really want voluntary compliance because we just want people to understand that the faster they remove it off their property the less likely that it's going to return,” she said. Removing graffiti acts as a deterrent. Evidence of this was the Pemberton graffiti that was removed about a month ago and hasn't yet returned.
Walker said the graffiti task force has discussed putting a public art wall around the sea bus area where a lot of graffiti is found. But she said this won't stop graffiti from happening throughout the district.
“From what I understand, you're still going to get these taggers tagging even though you've got these community art walls. It's two different groups of people. The taggers are about the criminal activity and vandalism and of course the artists that just want a space to work their art it doesn't necessarily prevent graffiti from happening where we don't want it to occur,” Walker said.
Walker said of the Deep Cove graffiti incidents: “This is not art. This is staking their territory.”
But this is a common misconception about graffiti taggers, said Adrian Archambault of the Community Policing Centre for Grandview-Woodland in Vancouver. Archambault oversees the RestART program, a Vancouver-based restorative justice project that began a graffiti management initiative with the City of Vancouver to allow graffiti taggers to channel their skills. Graffiti artists work with mentors to design murals on city-approved walls, that has lead to changing public perception around the art form, he said.
“From the criminal perspective graffiti tagging is almost like an addiction. It's not territorial so much as it's a compulsion,” Archambault said, “The way it is perceived is not always the way it was intended.”
Those who suspect graffiti taggers are acting in their neighbourhoods are asked to call 911 to report vandalism. Those who are the victims of graffiti should contact the District to get a 40 per cent off paint voucher.