More spray paint causes grief, costs taxpayers thousands

·2 min read

STRATHROY - One troubling trend which perhaps played second fiddle to everything else that was going on in 2020 was an explosion of spray-paint vandalism in the township, especially in the urban area of Strathroy.

Colourful imagery and crude tags could be spotted all over: On buildings, bridges, control sheds, construction sites, parks, and playgrounds. A July incident at Alexandra Park caused a stir when vandals scrawled vague lettering on playground equipment that was taped off due to Covid-19. Clean-up costs for that single incident had been estimated at $2,000.

Overall, Strathroy-Caradoc Police investigated 25 mischief incidents at aforementioned locations. Constable Michelle McIntyre adds that most of the incidents occurred at night. Police investigations identified “Persons of Interest”, and often tied multiple incidents to the same perpetrator; for example, the “BLUR” and “Никто” tags which appear repeatedly over multiple incidents.

Nearly all municipalities dealt with vandalism this summer; even the quiet Village of Newbury saw an incident involving a smashed water fountain at recently-renovated Old Boys Park. Was this trend just another ugly side effect of the pandemic?

“This is not a new issue,” says Strathroy-Caradoc’s Director of Community Services, Rob Lilbourne; but he does suggest there may have been slightly more graffiti than normal. A municipal by-law prohibits access to parks from 11pm-5am. Lilbourne says they have tried on-site cameras with minimal success.

In the search for a solution, there are options. The township is investigating “Goodbye Graffiti”, a contractor specializing in graffiti removal/prevention. Strathroy-Caradoc ratepayers spend approximately $10,000-$12,000/year on vandalism clean-up; if the situation gets any worse, Lilbourne says it may be more cost effective to hire out.

Local Youth Unlimited member Dave Berdan suggests another approach. In theory, he explains, kids will always need some sort of outlet. No matter where they are in life, youth self-expression can take the form of vandalism - or, of art. Berdan suggests dedicating spaces for taggers.

Could providing a “free-for-all” wall at the skate park or behind select municipal buildings curb unwanted vandalism in other public and private spaces?

Additionally, Youth Unlimited is exploring the idea of bringing a “Paint for Purpose” programme to Strathroy, to give teens a safe place to express themselves through art. Pick up a pen, a paintbrush, or - yes, even a spray-paint can - but nobody appreciates property damage.

McKinley Leonard-Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner