The cost of cleaning up graffiti in the Halifax Regional Municipality has surged in recent years and is now more than double what it was four years ago, CBC News has learned.
Graffiti removal costs in HRM:
April 2010 to March 2011: $172,951.82
April 2011 to March 2012: $291,387.60
April 2012 to March 2013: $379,075.23
April 2013 to February 2014: $380,608.22
Between April 2013 and February 2014, the city spent $380,608.22 cleaning up graffiti. The cost for March has not yet been tallied, but the total is expected to top $400,000.
That's up from $172,951.82 between April 2010 and March 2011.
"Graffiti doesn't stop," said Kim Selig, owner and operator of Halifax-based Goodbye Graffiti, a company hired by the city to help in the removal effort.
"We are removing graffiti sometimes from the same signs we removed from the week before. It's been our experience that the quicker you remove it, the easier it will be to manage."
These figures for graffiti cleanup only take into account municipal spending — it doesn't include costs to private property owners if they choose to have the graffiti removed.
Incidents of graffiti in the Halifax area between March 2013 and February 2014:
"It takes a lot of work, materials and time," said John Amyoony, a corner store owner who has battled graffiti four or five times.
"We don't have time for that, to clean someone else's mess."
He said painting a mural on the side of his store has helped keep the tags away.
Halifax Regional Police Const. Gerry Murney, who heads the community response team against graffiti, said he's not surprised by the cleanup costs.
Murney, who began working toward graffiti reduction five years ago, believes so-called "open walls" — areas legally designated by the municipal and provincial governments for graffiti — are part of the problem.
6,000 photos, 377 tags
"Many people that use this wall are also the people that are doing all the other damage around town," he said, referring to one such open wall on Canal Street in Dartmouth.
"One of the first things would be to stop promoting it because you're chasing your tail."
Murney has a database of more than 6,000 photos of graffiti and he analyzes them to understand some of the taggers' patterns. He currently has a list of 377 tag names — or signatures — that show up in those pictures and he knows of 48 crews or groups responsible.
Even if Murney knows a person's tag name, he doesn't know who they are.
He has a second list of people that have been charged in relation to tagging since 2009 — but that list has 206 names and has resulted in only one conviction, while the rest go through adult diversion and restorative justice programs.
Murney said most of the people charged are males and the vast majority have had previous run-ins with police.
One councillor said the amount of taxpayers' money put to graffiti cleanup is "disgusting."
"When we think of tax dollars having to go to clean up graffiti because some young punks are running around marking up not only private property but municipal property, provincial, federal — wherever they can find a place to do it," she said.
"People work hard to pay their taxes. They don't expect it to be going to that."