The mere smudge of graffiti splashed around a neighbourhood can double the number of people littering and stealing in that area, according to a 2008 study funded by the University of Groningen, Netherlands.
In the study, an envelope with money was left sticking part way out of a mailbox. When the mailbox was left graffiti free, 13 per cent of people passing by stole the money, but when the mailbox was tagged with graffiti 25 per cent of people stole the envelope and 30 per cent when litter was added to the area.
“Once you have one tag, it encourages more tags,” Jean said. “We shouldn’t have the amount of graffiti we have here.”
She’s recruited the help from local Tom Watson to volunteer his time and help launch a program designed to rid the streets of graffiti without re-victimizing property owners involved.
Watson and Jean have organized “anti-graffiti” kits, funded by Waste Management, that will be sent out with volunteers and police to victims hit by roaming taggers. The kits come packed with removal product for different surfaces, safety equipment and instructions on the most effective ways to remove graffiti. They also come with a 40 per cent discount on exterior paint from Home Hardware in Saanichton.
Watson will also be working with the police to document tags and compile digital images of the graffiti and assist in identifying the vandals.
Both Watson and Jean feel a strong connection to the Peninsula communities. Both grew up around Victoria and had known each other as teenagers, then both moved away and hadn’t seen each other for years. A chance meeting in a grocery store produce section reunited the two, where Watson jokes they discovered they went in opposite directions: him a musician, her a police officer.
Watson, the founder of the popular band The Timebenders, ended up performing at an event for the Central Saanich Police and connected with the department and Jean.
“I really liked the office and the people,” Watson recalled. That prompted him to want to volunteer, “and beyond a personal level, it’s nice to give back to the community.”
This year Jean has become the first Community Policing Officer in the Central Saanich Department and is already building a lot of momentum for the role. Along with the anti-graffiti program she writes a three-time-a-year community newsletter, mailed out with water bills and found in coffee shops and spots around town, as well as E-alerts that offer residents and businesses police updates in their neighbourhoods.
“The last thing I want to do is make people afraid. But to be informed is important,” Jean said.
For more information on the anti-graffiti program call 250-652-4441.