Police on lookout for graffiti vandals in Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake RCMP need your help. Over the last couple months, there has been a notable increase in 'graffiti' around Sylvan Lake.

  • Mar. 19, 2015 11:00 a.m.

Sylvan Lake RCMP

Sylvan Lake RCMP need your help. Over the last couple months, there has been a notable increase in ‘graffiti’ around Sylvan Lake. Police are actively investigating these events and would like to hear from anyone who has fallen victim to this crime.

As of late, a particular graffiti vandal has been painting his tag – ‘BURS’ – around town on power boxes, walls of businesses and other locations.

If you have seen the individual(s) writing this tag (BURS) or know the individuals who write this tag (or any other tag) and can provide information, please call the RCMP complaint line at (403) 887-3333, or if you want to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or by internet at www.tipsubmit.com.

You do not have to reveal your identity to Crime Stoppers, and if you provide information to Crime Stoppers that leads to an arrest(s), you may be eligible for a cash reward.

Photos of this particular tag are available to view at the Sylvan Lake RCMP detachment, but have not been provided to media as this then becomes a trophy or reward for these vandals.

Graffiti facts

Generally, graffiti can be defined as the defacing of public or private property by painting, drawing, writing, etching or carving without the property owner’s permission.

The offence of Mischief found in the Criminal Code of Canada gives police the power to lay charges for graffiti related incidents.

Section 430(1) Criminal Code of Canada states everyone commits mischief who willfully:

● destroys or damages property;

● renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;

● obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or

● obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

Penalty Section 430(4) states everyone who commits mischief in relation to property, other than property described in subsection (3):

● is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

● is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

In addition to the above noted Criminal Code charges, police also have the power to charge anyone who commits this offence under S. 10.1 of the Town of Sylvan Lake Community Standards Bylaw. This bylaw makes it an offence to place graffiti on property and carries a monetary penalty of $2,500 for a first offence, $5,000 for a second offence and $7,500 for a third and subsequent offence.

The following excerpt is borrowed from the Saskatoon Police Service Anti Graffiti website, which has a lot of great information with respect to the crime, the effects it has on the community and tips on how to remove graffiti from different types of surfaces.

“Graffiti is more than just words or symbols sprayed. Graffiti is an act of vandalism that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove or cover every year.

Every dollar spent on graffiti removal is a dollar that could be used on other badly needed programs.

Areas filled with graffiti are less appealing to those who may be looking to buy or rent property. Property becomes more difficult to sell and values are reduced.

If not immediately removed, graffiti sends out a message that ‘nobody cares’ about the area. It also causes the area to look unsafe and makes people concerned about their personal safety. This creates an open invitation for more littering, loitering and other graffiti.

Unfortunately, it may also lead to an increase in other crimes and acts of violence.

The Broken Window Theory espouses that if a broken window in a building is left un-repaired, the other windows will also be broken. An experiment to test this theory was performed by Wilson and Kelling (1982), whereby a car was abandoned in two neighbourhoods – one respectable and the other run down.

In both of these neighbourhoods, the car was vandalized, showing that vandalism can occur anywhere once informal social controls are lowered by signals that no one cares.

The authors also suggest that untended behaviour can lead to breakdown of community controls (i.e., if a place is left untended, weeds will grow, windows may be smashed, young people will congregate, public drinking may occur, etc.)

This breakdown may not lead to increased levels of crime, however, it will lead to increases in residents’ perceptions of crime.

The level of disorder will lead them to assume that crime, especially violent crime, is rising, making them feel less secure and more fearful. The suggested result of this is that people will avoid using the streets and have less contact with others, thus reducing community bonds, and installing individual’s isolation.

The resultant effect is that these environments also make a neighbourhood more vulnerable to crime.

This shows how graffiti can contribute to the problems and perceptions of crime in a given community.