Here's a shocker that shouldn't shock. But it does.
Have you noticed how some of the most beautiful cities in the world suffer from some of the worst graffiti? And have you noticed how waves of ugly graffiti signal undercurrents of social problems throughout a city?
I recently spent time in Victoria, BC...certainly one of the most beautiful smaller urban places anywhere. It has historic architecture, lively street life, interesting districts like Chinatown the Inner Harbour, and a thriving tourist business. Yet in recent years it has been hit with thousands of graffiti tags. I drove from one end of the city to the other and no places were spared.
This was not the political or street art expression you see in some places. It was felt-marker pen scribbles and spray paint vandalizing post boxes, telephone poles, street signs and benches. The city is launching a campaign to tackle it this summer. They have their work cut out for them.
Let's hope their prevention strategies don't obsess on graffiti paint-outs as the sole answer. Paint-outs are a beautification tactic from 1st Generation CPTED and they have a role. But they only go half-way. Kind of like eating cake without the icing. Yuk.
Prevention strategies must also integrate the neighbourhood-building strategies of 2nd Generation CPTED like those we teach in SafeGrowth.
Years ago I recall visiting another beautiful city - Sydney, Australia - where I saw the same kind of blight. It was just prior to the 2000 Olympics and I did media interviews commenting on the profusion of graffiti. I asked what kind of face Sydney was presenting to the world. It did get front page coverage but I doubt it triggered any specific action.
However, there was a significant anti-graffiti clean-up program prior to the Olympics and according to accounts, it made a big difference. I'll be in Sydney this winter and am anxious to see if those efforts were sustained 2nd gen CPTED strategies or whether they faded into a shade of spray paint.
CAN VICTORIA LEARN FROM SYDNEY?
That is where Victoria finds itself today. Each year the Canadian government releases urban crime statistics showing how Victoria is in the Top Ten worst for Canadian cities that size (about 250,000). Victoria's Crime Rates
While it is still a beautiful and magnificent city, like everywhere it has problems. Clearly, graffiti is not the among the most serious.
But graffiti does signal a particular cue about a place. It sends a message. Some graffiti might be artistic expression. But more positive community-designed street murals can do the same thing. For example, check this out see article on Mural programs
Next month the International CPTED Association launches a new service: CPTED Workbooks for Designers and Community Developers. The inaugural issue will be on Tackling Graffiti. Watch for it International CPTED Association website
Also, check out Steven Woolerich's latest Target Crime blog called "Taking it to the Streets". see Steven's Target Crime blog