Newton graffiti mural to help the fight on crime

The Newton BIA hopes its new colour mural will help with the neighbourhoods crime problems.

'Graffiti art and stuff like that stopped me from doing crime, says artist Danny Fernandez

Graffiti artist Danny Fernandez, a.k.a. Def 3 was hired to transform several Newton alleyways into colourful murals. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Graffiti artist Danny Fernandez has spent nearly 100 hours working on a mural in Surrey's Newton neighbourhood.

"The idea is to fight fire with fire," said the artist. 

In 2014, Surrey's Newton area took over Whalley's reputation for crime, when there was a large spike in property crime. 

To help restore its good reputation, the Newton Business Improvement Association hired Fernandez to beautify a few of its alleyways. 

"When there is a dark cloud over your community, no one wants to be out at night," said Phillip Aguirre, executive director of the Newton BIA. 

"It's a place where people don't feel safe. So, if you can entice them into the core, into the town centre, you can take care of the crime issues as well," said Aguirre. 

The 21 metre long and 3.5 metre high mural shows Newton's past, present and future. Its past is illustrated by the railroad, followed by the Wave pool. Its present is represented by four Indo-Canadian men celebrating Vaisakhi. Its future is depicted with light rapid transit and new development. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Borrowing a page from the broken window theory, Aguirre said this is just one of a thousand little projects that will help rebuild the community. 

"There is no silver bullet that is going to solve Newton's problems," he said. ​

"But if you collect all the garbage, if you remove graffiti, if you beautify it with flowers, murals and art, people are going to want to be in that community," he said. 

The BIA partnered up with the property owner and received a grant from the City of Surrey to cover the $10,000 cost of the mural.

The 21 metre long mural, located in an alley just before King George on 72 Avenue, is expected to be completed by the end of this week and has already received a lot of attention. 

"It seems to have the same affect on people when they see someone create art live. Especially when it is this medium, typically done in the dark. When they see how the process is, people will sit and watch for three, four hours," he said. 

If I wasn't doing this, I'm sure I would have gotten caught up in a lot of different things.- Danny Fernandez

Fernandez, originally from Regina, said he has defended graffiti as an art form for nearly two decades. 

"When something is vandalized, they just call it graffiti," he said. "That's an archaic way of thinking."

"They tie it to gang relation, but it's not. It's just another from of art. My whole career doing this has just been battling those people because every city has police organizations to battle it, which is really frustrating," he said. 

But Fernandez said often graffiti art is less likely to be vandalized or tagged. 

Fernandez believes graffiti art is less likely to be vandalized or tagged. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

He hopes by the BIA promoting graffiti this way, it will get the attention of the youth and steer them in the right direction, like it did for him. 

"If I wasn't doing this, I'm sure I would have gotten caught up in a lot of different things," said Fernandez." Graffiti art and stuff like that stopped me from doing crime." 

About the Author

Tina Lovgreen

Video Journalist

Tina is a Video Journalist with CBC Vancouver. Send her an email at tina.lovgreen@cbc.ca