It’s hard to tell whether the white spray-painted tag on a wall at the corner of Quadra and Tattersall begins with an M or a B. Or that might just be some random squiggly character.
Either way, you’re bound to notice it next time you pass the intersection, as Saanich public works crews likely won’t be cleaning it up any time soon.
As part of budget cutbacks in the municipality, there’s no money available to clean graffiti off municipally owned walls, fences, street furniture and overpasses.
“We still will deal with profanity, anything that’s obscene and so on, but basically the account for graffiti removal, those funds were cut,” said Mike Ippen, manager of public works.
For the fourth year in a row, Saanich council has asked each municipal department – except for public safety – to cut one per cent from their annual budget. This year $30,000 was scrapped that was annually allocated to roads crews to clean up graffiti.
“We can’t hold the line in a whole bunch of departments and not have an impact,” said Mayor Frank Leonard. “This was a choice that was made that would have the least amount of impact, so we’ll know more as the year progresses.”
The silver living, however, is just the public works side has been impacted so far. The Saanich parks department will still clean graffiti from parks, solid waste crews still have a budget to clean bus shelters, and hydro poles and mailboxes are still to be cleaned by their respective owners, B.C. Hydro and Canada Post.
“Obviously, any service cut is a bad one. It reduces a level of service that the community has come to expect,” Ippen said.
Saanich police Const. Jenn Symonds, the force’s designated graffiti officer, says this decision could prove problematic, as a vandalized area will encourage more graffiti.
“If you’re quick at removing it, it lets these people know that that’s not an area that will put up with the tagging. But if you let it sit, then it’s: ‘People here don’t care, we’ll make this our canvas,'” she said.
She also said that the municipality should be setting an example for Saanich residents, who are required to remove graffiti on their property.
“If the municipality’s not doing it, it makes an argument for property owners as to why they shouldn’t have to,” Symonds said.
Ippen says neighbours who are interested in removing graffiti that roads crews won’t can contact Saanich public works at 250-475-5599 for information on acquiring clean-up kits.