Police are crediting a surge in charges against graffiti vandals to a joint investigative unit that has laid as many graffiti-related charges in the first couple months of 2012 as were laid in all of last year.
About 156 charges have been laid this year, with penalties ranging from fines of $1,000 to $5,000, to possible jail time under the Criminal Code.
Police announced Wednesday that they had nabbed a prolificCalgarygraffiti vandal, thanks to the efforts of a three-month-old joint investigative unit made up of officers fromCalgarypolice, transit and animal and bylaw services.
Randy Gabel, 18, was charged with 49 charges of mischief under $5,000 and one charge for mischief over $5,000.
Police say Gabel vandalized both private and public property, including transit property, with damage amounting to $25,000.
“It’s a very recognizable, very individual (crime),” saidCalgarypolice Insp. Curtis Olson, who added police frequently find graffiti offenders involved in other criminal activities or property-related offences.
Police believe Gabel was responsible for “tags” found all over the city, across districts and jurisdictions.
Previously, a single vandal may have had contact with police, transit and bylaw authorities, without any of the agencies being aware of the work of the others.
“Now that information is coming together,” Olson said. “Any one district or any one agency cannot really do it themselves. We’ve got to have that co-ordination.”
Calgary Transit co-ordinatorBrian Whitelawsaid graffiti damage, including tagging with spray paint, markers, stickers, as well as etching and scratching, can cost the city millions every year.
“The impact of graffiti vandalism onCalgarytaxpayers is significant,” Whitelaw said. Replacing “glass on trains . . . cost around $1.5 million last year.”
Transit was also forced to replace every single seat in a train car a few months ago after one vandal tagged the entire car.
Bylaw services director Bill Bruce said Wednesday that it’s clear where the line between “art” and “vandalism” lies.
“It’s about permission,” Bruce said. “There are processes for murals to be done, but graffiti is vandalism.”
Now the city is asking Calgarians to report graffiti whenever they see it – either by calling 911 if the vandalism is in progress, or 311 to report existing graffiti.
“The sooner graffiti vandalism is reported and removed, the less likely it is to reappear,” Bruce said.
Thu Mar 15 2012
Section: City & Region
Byline: Meghan Potkins