Reducing Graffiti Vandalism
What is Graffiti?
“Graffiti” means any drawing, inscription, writing or other mark that disfigures or defaces any building, accessory building, fence or other structure, however made, or otherwise affixed;” Bylaw 8175
The Graffiti Bylaw
The Saskatoon Property Maintenance and Nuisance Abatement Bylaw requires that no person shall permit graffiti on any building, accessory building, fence or on any structure on property owned by that person. All exterior surfaces shall be free of graffiti.
What can you do if you see Graffiti?
Report graffiti on City of Saskatoon property, public property, and other
The City of Saskatoon removes graffiti from its own property and alerts other external partners through an internal reporting system. You can report graffiti to the City of Saskatoon on all types of utility boxes, schools, parks, Canada Post boxes, dumpsters, signs, bridges, and railways. (Residential and commercial property owners are notified through bylaws, see above.)
What you can expect from us
- Average turnaround time to process your Graffiti report is 1 or 2 days, including entering it into our tracking database, assigning it to the correct business unit responsible for that piece of property, and/or contacting our external partners.
- Business unit responsible may need to visually inspect graffiti manually if no picture is attached in the report.
- Graffiti report is then prioritized into the system for removal.
- Obscene, vulgar or hate graffiti is top priority and will be responded to first.
- Business units target graffiti removal within 7 days of it being reported, subject to resources, safety considerations and weather permitting.
- You will not receive a call back once removed, but can give us a call if your report is not removed within 30 days.
How you can help us
- Report graffiti as soon as possible with detailed information about its location.
- Include a picture of the graffiti with your report.
Report graffiti on residential or commercial property
The City of Saskatoon has a graffiti bylaw that requires residents to remove graffiti from their own property. You can report graffiti on property that includes residential housing, businesses, commercial, and industrial buildings. (Other property is either removed by the City of Saskatoon or are notified about the graffiti for their removal through an internal reporting system, see below.)
How the Graffiti Bylaw Works
Once graffiti has been reported, Fire and Protective Services will first provide the property owner with a brochure explaining why removing graffiti is important, offer some graffiti removal incentives and give a notice asking them to clean up the graffiti within 7 days. Failure to do so could result in an Order to Clean-up the Graffiti. The City would have the right to have Youth Works paint over the graffiti without the consent of the owner. The cost of the paint job would not be added to the taxes. The property owner would not be prosecuted.
Who is affected by Graffiti?
Graffiti is a crime that effects all members of the community.
- Property owners have to pay to remove graffiti.
- Business owners can lose customers from the negative image that graffiti leaves.
- Communities suffer because graffiti can make people feel the community is in decline.
- Residents in the city whose tax dollars are spent removing graffiti on public buildings, monuments and park structures.
- The public who are concerned about the vandalism and what the graffiti means.
What can you do if you are a Victim of Graffiti?
1) Record - Take a picture of the graffiti vandalism as soon as it is identified.
3) Remove - If the graffiti is on your property, remove it as quickly as possible. The faster and more frequently graffiti is cleaned up, the less it reappears.
Types of Graffiti
Hate graffiti is motivated by hate, bias or prejudice, based on race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any similar factor.
Offensive graffiti is generalized as being obscene or offensive in nature such as but not limited to, swear words or sexual drawings, and is not hate-based.
Vandalism or Hip Hop Graffiti
Vandalism based graffiti includes writing, painting or etching a symbol or "tag" that may or may not contain letters and is not considered offensive or hate based graffiti.
Gang Graffiti is rare, but is used to mark the territory of a gang.
Source: City of Ottawa, “Report Graffiti on Private Property”
How can you Prevent Graffiti
Here are some things you can do to prevent graffiti:
- Remove any graffiti as soon as it appears. The faster graffiti is removed, the less desirable your property becomes to vandals.
- Make every effort to keep the appearance of your property clean and neat. Litter, broken fences and overgrown shrubs send a message of indifference, which can attract vandals.
- Move vehicles, dumpsters and other items away from walls and cover pipes to prevent access to the roof or upper levels of a building.
- Consider applying a special coating to protect surfaces from potential damage caused by graffiti removal.
- Design and build structures that are not attractive graffiti targets. Avoid large, smooth and light coloured surfaces.
- Use fences and other barriers to discourage through traffic near your home or business.
- Work with community artists to commission a mural on a persistently targeted wall.
Source: City of Ottawa, “Graffiti Prevention and Removal”
Tips to Remove Graffiti
Clean Up Incentives
Recycled Paint - Free recycled paint can be picked up at any SARCAN location in Saskatoon. Members of the public who wish to donate left over paint are encouraged to drop paint off at any SARCAN location.
Purchase Discounted Paint - You can purchase discounted paint and other graffiti removal products at the following paint companies: Eastside Paint and Wallpaper (2 locations); General Paint Corp (2 locations); Days Paints Ltd; Cloverdale Paint Inc; and Wolfe Home Furnishings.
Saskatoon Fire & Protective Services in partnership with Youth Works – This program offers the property owner vandalized by graffiti a free paint job to cover up the graffiti with a few selected standard colour paints.
Please Note: The Youth Works Program will NOT colour match with existing paint and will only cover the area vandalized by graffiti.
Call a Commercial Graffiti Remover - Hire a professional to wipe out graffiti from your property.
Painting Over Graffiti
If a large portion of a property has been vandalized, it may be cheaper to simply repaint. It will also give you the opportunity to possibly change paints to a glossy enamel which will resist future graffiti attacks better than a flat finish. For added protection, having an extra gallon of the same type of paint will help ensure a quick and painless perfect match if graffiti returns.
Before painting, try to clean the surface of any dirt or grease (dull surface with graffiti remover, primer or sanding). Certain marker pens and permanent markers have the ability to absorb paint pigments. That’s what makes them permanent so use a special paint called a stain blocker. Also, if the base color is light and the graffiti a dark color, use a stain blocker first. This special type of paint prevents the darker paint from seeping through the fresh paint.
Oil or Latex Paint?
Oil base paint is tougher than latex. Latex is less expensive and easier to clean up. Though not recommended, oil base can be applied at below freezing temperatures if needed. Oil base takes longer to dry, but can be used if light rain threatens.
Sealers and Foam Brushes
Once the new paint is on, you might consider using a “sealer” or “protectant.” These types of products seal the small surface pores and prevent graffiti’s ability to adhere.
Once sealed, new graffiti is less work to remove. Some protectant systems sacrifice a small amount of the sealer and need to be reapplied after the graffiti is removed. As a good insurance policy, buy some foam-type brushes. If graffiti reappears, use the foam brushes so that the new paint will blend into the old with perfect results. After, just toss the brushes away since they are inexpensive.
Brick, Cement, Concrete - Use extra strength paint remover. Apply with a wire brush to work into holes and pores of stone. Allow time to activate and rinse with a forceful stream of water from a hose. Use of a pressure washer or soda-blaster may be needed. If the surface is uniformly flat, a light grit (60) sand paper can remove paint, but will also scratch the surface. Consider using a sealer after removal to close pores and make future removal easier.
Stucco - Due to the multi-faceted surface of stucco, it is impossible to sand off. Use paint remover and follow up with a high pressure water hose or better yet a pressure washer. Use stucco paint and go over the graffiti carefully. Consider using a sealer as a finish coat.
Aluminum/Vinyl Siding - Aluminum siding is usually coated or painted. Vinyl siding is made of plastic which can be marred by lacquer thinner-type cleaners. Solvents may work too aggressively and remove the coating as well. Experiment in a small inconspicuous area first and then tackle the more visible areas. Use paint remover sparingly and carefully. Use a clean rag and keep turning to a clean part of the rag before each wipe. The longer the solvent stays on the surface, the deeper it penetrates. In most cases, you will probably have to repaint.
Glass or Plexiglass - Any razor blade can scrape away cured paint on regular glass. For other marks any solvent can be used. Use the clean rag technique and hold the rag over the graffiti for a moment to let the solvent work. On plexiglass be careful of the lacquer thinner type solvents as they can attack the surface causing it to fog and smear. Make sure your product is compatible with the type of surface you are cleaning. Rinse thoroughly with water.
Wood - Try working up the solvent list if the marks are new. Most thinners will remove magic markers and acetone will remove day old spray paint. You must use a clean rag and keep using a fresh part on each wipe. On latex or oil-based paint, use a stain-blocking primer for exterior use. After the stain blocker coat has dried, you can proceed with regular paints, oil or latex. Most oil base paints are more durable to solvents and hence could make future clean up easier. Consider a sealer coat after final finish. Avoid using flat paints as they readily absorb pigments from markers and spray paint.
Fiberglass - Depending on the type of graffiti, work your way up the thinner list. Be aware that acetone-based solvents will soften plastics. Use full-strength paint remover and rinse carefully.
Metal - On any unpainted metal (iron or stainless steel) surface, any solvent can be used. Some polished aluminum surfaces will cloud or oxidize with aggressive cleaners like lacquer thinner. Use the clean rag technique. If you are unsuccessful, try paint remover.
Etching - Surfaces scratched or scored with sharp objects can only be filled with fillers or the material will have to be replaced. Some new types of glass have replaceable covers or film layers that are cheaper to replace than the etched glass. Automotive body fillers can fill deep gouges and then be repainted. The only other recourse may be to replace the glass. You might deny the vandal visibility by etching over the vandal’s mark, thus turning a “P”into a “B”and so on. It’s a psychological solution, demonstrating that this area will not tolerate the vandal’s message.
For more information about graffiti removal and/or graffiti removal products, please contact home and lumber stores or general contractors.
Source: City of Milwaukee, “How to Wipe out Graffiti”
Tips for Concerned Parents
What is a graffiti tagger?
A graffiti tagger is someone who adopts a nickname or signature and places that signature on objects or property in the form of graffiti. This nickname or signature is referred to as a “tag”. The goal of a tagger is to earn respect and recognition within the graffiti movement by placing as many signatures in as many high profile locations as possible. Some taggers will go to great lengths, including putting themselves at risk or in danger, to place their tag in the most challenging locations.
How do I know if my child might be a tagger?
There are some general indicators that your child may be involved in graffiti including:
- Adopting a new signature or nickname used by his/her friends.
- Carrying a sketchbook (often referred to as a “black book”) containing graffiti tags or cartoon-like art.
- Graffiti tags appear on notebooks, furniture, walls or other objects including skateboards and under the brim of a baseball cap.
- Frequenting graffiti Web sites, discussion boards and reading graffiti magazines.
- In the possession of graffiti paraphernalia including spray paint cans and tips, markers, shoe polish containers, etching tools (etching acid, sand paper, wood-working tools, stencils, rocks, nails, glass cutters, screw drivers) and “Hello my name is” stickers which are commonly used for sticker tagging.
- Marker or paint stains on hands or clothing.
- In possession of large supplies of clear, medical gloves.
- Frequently staying out late at night (Taggers usually work between the hours of midnight and 6 am).
- Becoming secretive or protective about certain items including areas in their room, bags or clothing. (Many taggers will keep a specific set of clothing, often a dark coloured hooded sweatshirt, for tagging activities.)
- Spending time with other children/youth displaying the above characteristics.
What can I do to prevent my child/youth from becoming a tagger?
The best way to prevent your child/youth from becoming a tagger is to be aware of the warning signs and encourage open communication. Talk to them about the negative impacts of graffiti and be aware of who their friends are and where they are hanging out.
Encourage your child/youth to participate in other positive creative outlets. There are other ways for your child to make their mark!
Encourage involvement in positive activities such as sports or school events.
Help your child express their creative energy in a positive way including art classes or design projects.
Get your child/youth and his or her friends involved in a community clean up initiative.
Source: City of Ottawa, “Tips for Concerned Parents”
Online Form: Report Graffiti