The City of London has claimed turf back from graffiti vandals and even used some of their money to pay for it. Friday, the city marked the completion of four new outdoor murals painted by professional artists.
THE MURAL ARTISTS
— Tracy Root: Oxford St. Bridge
— Jamie Quail: Wharncliffe Rd. Bridge
— Billy Bert Young: Greenway Park
— Andrew Gillet: Bradley Ave. Pedestrian Underpass
The oversized artwork was partly financed by $14,000 in restitution fines paid by scofflaws convic ted of graffiti vandalism. The rest came from the city’s public art program.The four murals are located in paths below two Thames River bridges, the Bradley St. pedestrian walkway and a building in Greenway Park.
The painting are all in graffiti “hot spots” visible from parks and bicycle trails, said Stephanie Jones from the city’s culture office. She said the murals act as a graffiti deterrent because vandals usually avoid defacing them. But if the vandals do strike, the murals are finished with a clear coat that allows for easy cleanup.
“We have beautified these areas and it seems to be working. There is respect for these artists . . . When you clean up an area, people will use it, be proud and maintain it,” said Jones.
She said the city worked with the London Arts Council to select four local artists who submitted sketches for their mural design.
London artist Tracy Root spent about 350 hours painting a 16-metre-wide mural under the Oxford St. bridge near Talbot St. It’s a colourful landscape of rolling hills, trees and farmhouses. Root said she was often praised by passers-by when she explained the project.
City police have laid more than 200 charges of graffiti vandalism in the last two years, said bylaw enforcement manager Orest Katolyk — who’s been the target of some of the unwanted drawings.
The offenders are typically sentenced to community service cleaning up the graffiti and pay a fine to the private property owners or the city. Katolyk said if the offender is a minor, the city has become more aggressive in collecting restitution from the parents, a tactic allowed under provincial law.
London’s graffiti removal program is based on the “broken window” theory championed by former New York city mayor Rudy Giuliani, said Katolyk. Giuliani credited a crackdown on petty crime, such as vandalism, for a reversal of the city’s once-notorious crime rate.
Katolyk said the city has made progress in reducing graffiti in the last five years with the arrest of graffiti gang leaders “It’s a combination of public-private partnerships and enforcement working to remove this blight,” he said.