Beyond the Headlines

What graffiti costs you

Posted: Jan 27, 2012 3:01 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 27, 2012 3:01 PM ET
According to the Oxford Dictionary online, graffiti is defined as "writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place".
Over at a different interpretation: "(Graffiti is) an element of the Hip Hop culture misinterpreted and misrepresented by the mainstream media, and most especially hated by affluent (usually white) businessmen who don't understand the roots or meaning of the writing on the walls."
Whichever definition you prefer, the fact is, getting rid of graffiti is costing all of us a lot of money.
Halifax just awarded a three-year contract to a company called Atlantic Graffiti Removal Inc. to remove the tags and drawings from city property. The cost to taxpayers: $395,856.05.
And that's not all the city spends on graffiti removal. The private contract is in addition to the 4 full-time HRM employees who remove graffiti "5 days a week, 7 hours a day."
The tender documents paint a picture of just how big a problem this has becomeGraf2.jpg.

The city says between its own staff identifying graffiti locations, and calls from the public, there are about 350 new cases per month betwen April and November (until recently the city didn't have graffiti crews working during the winter).
During one two-week blitz, the last company that had the graffiti removal contract, removed 550 tags from city property. That's on top of the 60 or sites they clean every week.

And where do they tag? Just about anywhere and everywhere.
Here's the breakdown from the city:
45% traffic signs (stop signs, speed limit signs, park signs), usually in marker or paint
20% telephone poles, including pole mounted garbage cans
20% traffic control boxes, traffic light boxes, metal light poles, usually in marker
15% other HRM assets including tunnels, park structures, benches, parking meters, etc.
Apparently there are rules that govern the graffiti "artists". The folks at say "contrary to popular belief, Graff is NOT any of the following: writing on houses of worship, people's houses in general, other writer's names, or tombstones."
But it's clear to anyone living in Halifax -- and no doubt other communities in Nova Scotia --  that anywhere else is fair game.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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