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Local graffiti artist says spray paint ban won't fix problem

By Marc Venema


BELLEVILLE, Ont. (27/07/2012) Nic Bambrough stands in front of some of his artwork near downtown Belleville. The City of Belleville is looking into possibly banning the sale of spray paint to minors. Photo by Marc Venema.


Banning the sale of spray paint to minors in Belleville isn’t going to stop the issue of graffiti, says a local graffiti artist.

“You’re never going to get rid of it,” said graffiti artist and Belleville resident Nic Bambrough. “There’s always going to be a vandal out there that wants to get his name up or get recognized somehow.”

“And the other issue is, I’d say a good majority of the vandals in this town are above the age of 18 so I don’t see how that’ll work.”

The City of Belleville’s graffiti taskforce is looking into a bylaw that would ban the sale of spray paint and other tools that could be used for graffiti.

The issue will be revisited during the August 13 council meeting.

“We are looking at studies from other municipalities right now to determine if we are going to try it,” said Councilor Egerton Boyce, chair of the task force.

Oshawa, London and Quinte West all currently ban selling spray paint to minors.

The bylaw in Quinte West states that business operators may be fined up to $5000 if they sell spray paint, broad tipped marker pens, paint pens, glass cutting tools or instruments to anyone under the age of 18. The by-law went into effect May 1, 2009.

Bambrough, who has lived in Belleville his entire life and been doing graffiti art for the last 14 years, said most of those tools aren’t available here to begin with.

He said spray paint sold in hardware stores isn’t what’s used to do proper graffiti.

“It’s only available online, its not available around here anyway,” Bambrough said.

“The only person that’s going to stop is the one that doesn’t know what they’re doing and yes, you will see a decrease in the bad looking vandalism but the artistic looking vandalism is going to keep going.”

Bambrough, who works on graffiti projects legally for business owners in the community, said the way to solve the problem is through education.

“Education is the best tool because it’s going to show them opportunity that they probably never thought about.”

Bambrough actively works with youth in the community, teaching them how to create beautiful art in controlled spaces where no vandalism is done. He has held workshops at Loyalist College, and has worked with the John Howard Society.

City officials agree with Bambrough when he said not one thing is going to fix the problem.

“There’s no one thing that’s going to solve it,” said Councilor Jack Miller. “It’s going to take a combination of crime prevention.”

“When you’re dealing with a problem like this, you look at every possible option and use the ones that make the most sense and rule the ones that don’t.”

Belleville Police Chief Cory McMullan agreed.

“It’s one more tool,” McMullan said. “There isn’t going to be one solution that is going to prevent any further graffiti from happening, there’s no one magic key.”

The city also has a graffiti hotline, where residents can call to report vandalism or graffiti on buildings so it can be cleaned up as quickly as possible.

“If the works not going to be on display for awhile it tends to take some of the purpose out of it,” said Miller.

Bambrough said that’s not the case amongst graffiti artists.

“Once the graffiti artist or the vandal puts up the tag, they get a photo of it and after that they really don’t care what happens to it,” Bambrough said. “You’re just making a new space for them to come back and do it again.”