COLD LAKE – People caught defacing properties in the City of Cold Lake could face hefty fines.
City council passed a motion during its Feb. 17 corporate priorities meeting to present the possibility of increasing the fine for being caught doing graffiti from $500 to $1,500.
Administration was instructed by council to come back with a process to identify buildings that were tagged, create an app to allow residents to report graffiti to the municipality, and to put together a reward program in the future.
The discussion came up due to concerns from the community surrounding a noticeable increase in graffiti. The vandalism is being seen on both public and private property. The instances also haven’t been concentrated in just one area of the city.
One of the ways administration suggested to discourage the vandalism was to increase the fines for placing graffiti, failure to remove it, and failure to comply with an order. The only amount changed was the penalty for someone getting caught tagging a building, which increased by $1,000 to $1,500.
Coun. Vicki Lefebvre was concerned about the effectiveness a hefty fine would have if the person couldn’t afford to pay it.
“I don’t know if we would be getting what we’re looking for,” she noted.
Although the possibility of raising the fine for not removing the graffiti was discussed, councillors disagreed with giving a financial penalty to struggling businesses or homeowners who may take a little bit longer to clean their facility.
“No property owner wants to see their property damaged or vandalized,” said Coun. Bob Buckle. “I don’t think we need to (increase) the fines for that same property owner, because I do agree some are tardy and need encouragement to get out there and get it off, but I know we have issues too around the community . . . We’ve got graffiti on our own power boxes, pump houses, and lift stations and some have been sitting there for a year. We’re going to get that thrown right back into our face and I don’t want to make it about that. It ought to be about trying to reduce and prevent graffiti.”
Coun. Chris Vining agreed, “The number one deterrent of graffiti is to get rid of it. Remove it and remove it as quickly as possible. Everything I’ve read on graffiti clean-up, that’s the number one thing, you’re not necessarily going to be able to go out and catch all the people tagging, but you can frustrate them.”
One way of addressing the issue that was suggested was for administration to come up with a reporting method that would allow residents to let the municipality know where an incident happened.
According to CAO Kevin Nagoya, an app was built by the municipality that would allow people to take a picture and upload it to show where it is.
“Then we know where that location is, and then (we are) able to tag it to a task. . . we can do that within the system.”
A program to encourage residents to assist in getting the graffiti down is also in the works, Nagoya stated.
“Administration’s vision is we have a program where we can incentivize them to be cleaned. For example, whether we give out gift certificates for people that are kids or whoever is going to take that on and clean it, all we need is proof that it's been removed.”
Vining recalled a resident who offered their paint removal services for a small charge last year when the city faced a rash of graffiti instances, and suggested organizing a program to see people volunteer to help.
“We have that ability in the community, and I’d like to see if we can help that out and maybe work (together). We might talk to folks and the chamber and figure out how a program might work best, but certainly be able to work on removing it as quickly as possible.”
Council will discuss the topic further at an upcoming meeting.