Amherst is facing a bit of a dilemma when it comes to dealing with graffiti in the downtown core. It’s not a huge problem, with just a couple of buildings being the target of vandals, but the question is who should pay to have targeted buildings cleaned up.
Several times in recent years, the town has looked at the best way of tackling graffiti. It’s examined everything from asking businesses to ban the sale of spray paint to young people to installing video surveillance in graffiti prone areas such as by the former ‘Riddles’ building on Station Street.
Several months ago, town council asked staff to come up with a bylaw that would require property owners to clean up their buildings within seven days of getting a notice about graffiti. The draft bylaw, presented during the September committee of the whole meeting, not only sets out when graffiti is to be removed but also sets fines of up to $5,000 or 90 days in jail with an additional penalty of up to $100 or 10 days in jail for each day the graffiti remains place.
Not surprisingly, several members of town council are balking at the heavy-handed approach saying it will punish the victims of crime by forcing them to pay to clean a mess they didn’t create.
Coun. Dale Fawthrop is suggesting an incentive plan that, instead of fining those who don’t comply with the bylaw, provides them seed money to fix the damage. He thinks punitive measures should be removed all together from the proposed bylaw while town CAO Greg Herrett said it would be difficult to have legislation without some sort of stick for those who make no effort to respond.
Graffiti is not a huge issue in Amherst, that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. Anytime someone paints something on a wall it leaves a less than desirable mark and the quicker it’s removed the better the chances of it not returning.
Having an incentive plan to clean up graffiti is a great idea, but at the end of the day someone has to pay up if the graffiti is mean with ignorance or indifference.