Grafitti walls get a new paint job

Penticton students lend a hand to get a handle on graffiti problem in downtown Penticton

Pen High student Jared Harris applies paint to a wall in downtown Penticton to cover up grafitti.

Pen High student Jared Harris applies paint to a wall in downtown Penticton to cover up grafitti.

It’s on the walls of Pompeii and there are even examples of it inside the Great Pyramid at Giza dating back to 4,500 BC. And it’s all over the back walls of alleys in downtown Penticton.

Campbell Watt, president of the Downtown Penticton Association, said that last year it was brought to their attention that graffiti in the downtown core was becoming a bigger nuisance.

“It’s been increasing to the point where it is pretty extreme now. We have noted significantly that it has gone up over the last couple of years,” he said. “We actually have business owners now that will look out their doors during business hours and see people painting graffiti.”

That kind of boldness, he said, is enabled by the length of time it takes to make a phone call and get an RCMP response.

“It doesn’t take a long time, but it takes longer than it does to scribble a few lines and get out of there,” he said.

The DPA is already taking action to combat the problem, with some short-term solutions and investigation for long-term prevention.

In the short-term, they’ve arranged for some help from graduating high school students.

Wednesday, students from Penticton Secondary School were roaming the back alleys of downtown, armed with paint and paintbrushes to paint over the graffiti.

Kerri Milton, DPA executive directer, said about 50 kids came out in what she describes as a partnership between the city’s bylaw department, the RCMP and downtown land and business owners.

“Landowners and business owners have supplied the right colour paint and the DPA have provided all other painting and cleaning accessories,” said Milton.

Watt admits that is just a temporary fix to help clean up the immediate problem, so the DPA is also putting together a group to investigate longer-term solutions. That group will be investigating a variety of solutions, including finding out how others have handled the problem.

“I am sure this happens in every community so we will contact some of them to see what steps they have taken,” said Watt.

He’s also in support of a plan put forward by a downtown businessman Neil Jamieson of Underwriter’s Insurance. Jamieson and Roger Love of Royal LePage have each pledged $1,000 to kickstart a fundraising campaign to purchase two cameras that snap a picture when a person enters the field of view and send it to a smartphone in the hands of the RCMP.

Those cameras would be moved around downtown, from one trouble spot to another in hopes of deterring graffiti and taggers. But the cameras come at a cost of $6,000, which Watt said is out of range for the DPA.

“They won’t be alone, that is something else that we are pursuing,” said Watt. He said the DPA hopes other business owners are willing to put in the money and the city will chip in as well.

“Things like that are way out of the budget, but we will research everything we can. Then whatever we can afford to do, we will do.”

The DPA has also launched a “Graffiti Be Gone” program through their website, which Watt said will help out in two ways, letting the organization know which areas have the worst problems and giving an idea of the ongoing scale.

“It is to put it in perspective as to how bad things really are,” he said. “If there are buildings that have been sitting there with paint on them for years, and you can’t say this is new, then you don’t really have a grasp on the severity.”