Catch a tagger: Winnipeg anti-graffiti program working, organizer says

A pilot project in Winnipeg aimed at helping vandals change their ways is at the halfway mark and the man in charge said it's been a huge success.

A Winnipeg pilot project that forces graffiti artists to paint over their own tags is helping to clean up one Winnipeg neighbourhood.

Four teenagers linked to a series of vandalized properties in the neighbourhood of Transcona are repaying their debt through community service instead of facing charges.

Following an investigation that began in June 2008, Winnipeg police were able to identify the spray-paint artists by their unique style of vandalism — known as tags.

Murray Rougeau, head of the Transcona Anti-Graffiti Campaign, meets the youths after school and on Saturdays and takes them to repaint buildings covered with graffiti.

Rougeau said he's learned a lot about taggers in the past several weeks.

"It's kind of strange when they start painting over their tags.  You can see a little sadness," he said.  "It just seems like it's an identity thing — that they're active and they're doing this."

He said the teenagers have re-painted about half a dozen buildings and logged 200 hours of community service. He expects to paint several more buildings before the program wraps up in the summer.

Police say the program's success is a result of a partnership between the Winnipeg Police Service, Transcona Anti-Graffiti Campaign and the Transcona business improvement zone.