VERNON - The amount of unwanted graffiti and tags is multiplying around Vernon, and it’s going to have some unpleasant consequences unless the community takes action.
Rachael Zubick, the coordinator at the community policing office in Vernon says it’s not a new problem, though it’s the worst it’s been in recent years. Safety Ambassadors recorded 135 new tags — words or slogans scrawled where they shouldn’t be — across the city. That’s in addition to 158 old tags, when only 44 have been removed.
“The sad part is certain areas of our downtown are starting to look relatively derelict,” Zubick says.
Vernon was hit hard this summer by three main groups of taggers. They started off individually but eventually teamed up and tagged large portraits together and would go on nightly tagging blitzes; in the morning many new tags would appear in numerous places, on numerous objects.
The best way to deal with tags is to remove them right away. People who put their tags on businesses and public property do so to have their work noticed; if it doesn’t stay up long it’s less likely to be targeted again.
But a majority of building owners, whether tight on time and money, or perhaps feeling they’ve already lost the battle, aren’t reporting the vandalism and aren’t removing it.
“I feel for the merchants. If you’ve got a mom and pop place, it takes time to get out there, deal with the problem, there’s the cost of getting it off,” Zubick says.
But ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. The taggers will keep coming back, and the more derelict and uncared for the building looks, the less customers will want to be there.
“It’s the broken window theory; the more derelict the building becomes, people will avoid the area because they feel uncomfortable. We’re starting to see it,” Zubick says.
Repeatedly removing or painting over tags may be a headache, but it Zubick insists it will work. And while a cost, it’s bound to save money in the long run.
Building owners are encouraged to report, remove and keep financial records of their costs.
“If and when we catch the individual involved we can levy some type of restitution,” Zubick says, adding tagging can fall under the offense mischief under $5,000.
A catalogue of tags, dates and locations are being kept for that very purpose. More information on what to do if your building gets tagged, how to report it and remove it, visit the city’s website.
However, it’s not a problem Zubick expects businesses to tackle on their own.
“Community pride is a cornerstone to actually dealing with the matter,” Zubick says. “We need to realign ourselves to take a look at this not as someone else’s problem, but as an issue we have to address as a community.”
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