Halifax's fast-acting clean teams credited with decline in new graffiti

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Halifax's fast-acting clean teams credited with decline in new graffiti

Halifax's fast-acting clean teams credited with decline in new graffiti

The amount of new graffiti going up on public property in the Halifax area has sharply declined this year compared to last — a drop being credited to just how quickly cleanup happens on the city's streets, buildings and signs.

Halifax Regional Municipality currently has four teams tasked with cleaning up graffiti as soon as it's spotted. To do their job, they cruise around in trucks filled with cleaners, pressure washers and paint.

Three of the teams are paid by the municipality, while the fourth is paid by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.

The amount of new graffiti going up in the municipality has been decreasing for the past decade, according to Don Pellerine, with Halifax's Transportation and Public Works department.

"The whole feature of graffiti is that they're trying to get a visibility feature of it. And the faster you show that you can deal with it, the less apt you are to be on the receiving end of graffiti tagging," said Pellerine.

In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, 3,259 pieces of public property in Halifax were tagged with graffiti. That number dropped by 610 this year — with only a month remaining on the fiscal calendar.

According to Pellerine, there generally isn't much graffiti during March anyway.

It costs the municipality just under $500,000 a year to keep graffiti under control. On top of that, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission also dishes out $12,000 to $15,000 a year to clean up graffiti on the city's private businesses.

It's money well spent, according to Paul MacKinnon, the executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.

"A lot of people do report that when they see [something] — whether it's broken windows, or whether it's streets unswept, or whether it's tags on properties — that just gives the sense that the area is not being well-maintained or looked after, and perhaps doesn't feel as safe or welcoming," he said.

MacKinnon sees the money spent on removing graffiti as a necessary cost of doing business.

"We're not out there declaring war on graffiti; it's more like any other maintenance issue that we do," he said. "It's a matter of let's try and get to it as quickly as possible and keep the area looking nice and clean."

But unlike the municipality, MacKinnon said the business commission hasn't seen a drop in the amount of new graffiti this year.

The commission's team removes around the same amount of new graffiti every year from the 300 to 400 buildings it services in downtown Halifax, MacKinnon said, though he didn't have specific numbers on how much was being removed.

Even with less graffiti on the municipal property, Pellerine said it's unlikely the municipality will actually save any money on its graffiti removal costs.

"A big part of it with our contractor is the actual policing of the area — you know, monitoring and identifying," he said. "And our own internal crews, that's part of what they do."