An innovative new program announced by the Brandon Police Service has designs on muzzling spray cans in the city.
The Graffiti Stop Program, which kicked off April 1, will provide graffiti victims with a voucher good for a discount on spray removal products at nine locations in Brandon.
“As the weather warms up, we’ve already started to see more graffiti complaints,” said Const. Travis Foster of the BPS community policing division.
Research in other major cities has shown that when vandalism is cleaned up, there is an increased sense of community pride. It also sends a direct message to the culprits.
“It’s the broken window effect,” Foster said. “If it isn’t cleaned up, the thought is that it is acceptable here. If things are cleaned up and the community stands behind it, then people realize that it isn’t going to be tolerated.”
While the broken windows theory was introduced in 1982 by social scientists, it was two Assiniboine Community College students who drew links to how it related in Brandon.
Police studies students Jesse Michaudville and Chris Menzies started examining graffiti as part of a school project.
After spending an hour at two locations in the city, the pair documented more than 70 incidents of graffiti.
“We found out that the problem is worse than we initially thought,” said Menzies, who is now a constable with the BPS.
However, he said like other criminal activity, it’s a relatively small group of people who are doing the majority of the damage.
“A lot of the tags are the same.”
After communicating with other police services in Canada, Menzies and Michaudville identified three potential ways to combat the problem.
The first involves putting spray cans under lock and key at retail outlets, not unlike how cigarettes are sold.
The second involves registering consumers who purchase spray cans in order to add a level of responsibility and give police a chance to track potential serial offenders.
The third involves the graffiti removal discount that will help offset the unfair cost the victim incurs because it is the property owner’s responsibility to remove it.
The students’ report favoured a plan that used a combination of all three methods.
“Every stakeholder including the community, retailers, and the BPS are sure to experience benefits both short and long term,” the report concluded.
“For a police service that can accredit much of its success to community partnerships, this proposal is another example of how they can stay true to their vision statement and put the community first.”
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 15, 2014