Two Penticton businessmen are so concerned about the rise in graffiti and vandalism affecting their businesses and others in the downtown area they are willing to invest their own money to help RCMP catch the perpetrators.
Neil Jamieson of Underwriter’s Insurance and Roger Love of Royal LePage have each pledged $1,000 to start a fundraising campaign to purchase two cameras that covertly snaps a picture when a person enters the field of view and sends it to a smartphone in the hands of the RCMP.
A two camera system starts at about $6,000. Love and Jamieson say that is a small price to pay, considering how much vandalism has cost them in the past year.
“I am having to hire someone every three or four months to clean the graffiti up from my building,” said Jamieson, who estimates he has spent $5,000 in the past year dealing with graffiti.
For Love, vandalism is as big a problem as the graffiti. He recently lost a $40,000 awning when someone climbed up on it, crashed through and then proceeded to kick the lighting fixtures off the side of the building.
“The graffiti itself is ongoing and you finally get fed up,” said Love.
Both men feel the amount of graffiti and vandalism is on the rise.
“It’s just rapidly picked up again. My take on it is there are some people that have gotten into the habit of doing this and it is time to stop them, and bump it down to a level that is acceptable,” said Jamieson. “It is never going to be perfect but I think it is time to step up.”
The two businessmen want to raise funds to purchase a couple of cameras from Tripwire Systems, which manufacture the covert camera system.
Those would then be placed at trouble spots and moved around, so taggers wouldn’t be sure what areas were being monitored.
“It’s called taking leadership, demonstrating leadership on an issue,” said Jamieson, adding that everyone needs to be behind the program to make it work.
“Citizens, like myself, they are going to put some money up. The RCMP needs to step up and grab these kids and the prosecutors need to sit them down,” said Jamieson, suggesting that a restorative justice system, where the perpetrators had to make reparations, might be the best way to handle things.
“They are sat down and they say ‘look, you are going to go clean that graffiti and you are going to pay the building owners back,’ and involve the parents where necessary,” he said.
City manager Annette Antoniak said she has talked with Mayor Garry Litke about Jamieson and Love’s proposal and agreed that city staff should assess options and report back.
She agrees, however, that the amount of graffiti is picking up.
“We are going to do the research on what it would cost and come up with some different options,” said Antoniak, adding that she also plans to discuss the problem with Supt. Kevin Hewco and see if the RCMP is developing any plans.
“It has gotten bad over the last two or three weeks.”
Jamieson said action needs to be taken as soon as possible.
“We are coming into summertime. It’s a tourist town, you drive around town and see all these buildings with graffiti, it looks brutal,” he said.