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By-law prohibits minors from buying graffiti tools

By Rachel Bell  [4]

BELLEVILLE – City councillors [5], along with Belleville police [6], are taking a stand against graffiti vandalism.

At the city council meeting on Monday night, a by-law that prohibits minors from buying graffiti tools, such as spray paint and stencils, was passed. Belleville police brought the idea to the table.

“Graffiti has had its ups and downs in Belleville in terms of the amount,” said Belleville councillor Egerton Boyce [7].

Rene Aubertin, staff sergeant for the Belleville police, said he agrees.

“It’s an issue in certain areas, and it’s an issue in the downtown core quite regularly,” he said.

Belleville won’t be the first municipality to set up a by-law that prevents minors from buying what they need to tag property.

“Other municipalities have found that that the rate of graffiti has gone down (after setting up the by-law),” said Boyce. “They are reporting success, so we’re going to try it and see.”

The by-law will be enforced similarly to the law of selling cigarettes to minors.

“We will have our by-law enforcement officers, we’re going to have the Belleville Police Service …” said Boyce. “Very similar to how we see cigarettes. They send in paid underage people, to go in and buy cigarettes. This is a way that we can do it, we pay an (underaged) individual to go in, (who) attempts to buy the graffiti tool, spray paint or what have you, and if they’re sold it the store can certainly face fines.”

Boyce said he knows the by-law won’t completely solve the issue, as he doesn’t believe minors are always the one to blame.

“I’ve got to stress that it’s not just minors that are doing the graffiti. A lot of people think, it must be some 15-year-old, but it’s not always the 15, 16-year-old. There are adults that do it too, so I don’t want to strictly label it as a youth issue.”

Aubertin agrees that it’s not just minors.

“We have had adults, we have had minors, I would say it’s a mix. It’s not one group more than another,” he said.

Mitch Panciuk [8], also a Belleville councillor, said he doesn’t think graffiti vandalism is a huge issue, but it is still something that needs attention.

“I think that a person who has their house vandalized with graffiti on it would look and say ‘that’s a very serious issue’ because they’re having to deal with the consequences of it,” he said. “But a lot of people don’t have properties that get vandalized – and it is a small minority of people that are doing this, on a small amount of buildings. But when it does happen, it’s an important issue for those people, and that’s why we’re taking action on it.”

Graffiti is also a huge expense, and Boyce said the money that goes towards removing graffiti is taking money from the city, which could be used for things such as repairing roads.

“I can tell you one example, where one individual caused over $20,000 damage in terms of graffiti,” said Boyce. “When you see it being put on limestone, and bricks, it’s expensive to successfully remove it.”