The CDN-NDG borough has been taking a community-based approach to solving its graffiti problem, with Mayor Lionel Perez and Loyola councillor Susan Clarke recently stressing the importance of the public’s involvement in the issue.
“Everyone has a role to play in dealing with graffiti and illegal tags in our community, and it takes a concerted effort. There’s no magical solution,” Perez told the newspaper.
In partnering with non-profit Prévention CDN-NDG and SPVM Station 11 in NDG, Perez says the borough has seen significant improvements in the last year or so.
He credits last year’s new borough bylaw, which requires that owners of large residential or commercial properties keep their buildings graffiti-free to avoid facing fines.
Despite some criticism of the bylaw, last year proved to be a success – 85 per cent of the 225 owners who were given notices removed the graffiti within the required seven days.
“Enforcement of the bylaw is really a last resort,” Perez said.
“It’s truly about everybody taking ownership and constructively playing a role in the community.”
In 2012, 10,000 square metres of surface area on public property were cleaned, along with just more than 6500 square metres of private property.
Local police are also playing an active role when it comes to prevention.
“We have an agreement with the police since 2010. When they catch someone in the act, they send the information to the borough, and the borough issues a bill for the cleanup,” said Clarke, adding that “quite a few thousand dollars have been billed, and a decent percentage of it has been paid.”
According to Station 11 commander Pierre Rousseau, raising awareness about the issue has been key. For the last year, the station has had police officers visiting classrooms or even doing door-to-door campaigns to try to steer teenagers away from graffiti.
“There is a lot of graffiti, but there aren’t that many kids doing them. What we often have is repeat offenders,” said Rousseau.
Rousseau hopes the community can start collaborating more with the police.
“If you look at the amount of graffiti in Côte-des-Neiges, and the number of calls we receive, there’s a jarring difference,” he explained.
He credits that difference with citizens’ worries about getting involved with the legal system.
Fighting graffiti the wrong way?
Despite the significant progress made last year, there are still improvements to be made, and some believe the borough is going about it the wrong way.
“The bylaw is not the right approach, it’s not the solution. These are all half measures – there needs to be a team assigned to this every day of the year. The service should be centralized,” said Sterling Downey, founder of Montreal’s Under Pressure graffiti festival and Projet Montréal candidate for Verdun.
Rousseau advised that residents who catch people in the act should call 911 immediately. Residents can also call the city’s info-line, 311, to report graffiti.
Photo: Jesse Feith