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What is graffiti?

Graffiti is painting, etching, covering or placing a mark on private or public property. The most common type of graffiti in the Ottawa area is called “tagging”, which is the repetitive writing or painting of a word, name or symbol. A small percentage of graffiti could also be gang-related, hate-based, political or profane.

Graffiti is a crime when it is placed on private or public property without the permission of the owner. The presence of graffiti in a neighbourhood can make people feel like that neighbourhood is run-down or not cared for, and can make residents feel unsafe and unhappy about their home.

What can you do about graffiti?

  • If you find graffiti in your neighbourhood, call the police to report it.
  • If your property has been vandalized with graffiti, or if you see hate-related graffiti, call the OPS Call Centre at 613-236-1222.
  • If you find graffiti on public property, call the City of Ottawa at 3-1-1.
  • If you see graffiti vandalism happening, it is considered a crime in progress and can be reported by calling 9-1-1.
  • If you wish to report graffiti vandalism anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 613-233-TIPS (8477).

The City of Ottawa has graffiti removal kits available if you would like to get involved in removing graffiti from your neighbourhood. The kits include graffiti removal scrubs (that work on smooth surfaces such as utility boxes, bus shelters, etc), gloves, garbage bag and scrubbing pads. Contact the City of Ottawa at cleaning@ottawa.ca or visit their website.

Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments has a graffiti removal program for youth to engage them in beautifying the city. For more information, visit the WISE website.

What can you do to prevent graffiti in your neighbourhood?

The best way to reduce the spread of graffiti is to remove it as quickly as possible. This tends to discourage graffiti artists from doing it again as many do not want to go through the work of creating it only to have it erased immediately.

As a property owner there are some things you can do to prevent graffiti:

  • Plant vines or shrubs around buildings to prevent access to walls.
  • Increase lighting and add motion sensing lights to draw attention to any movement around your property.
  • Move vehicles, dumpsters or other things away from walls to prevent access to walls and roofs of buildings.
  • Use a graffiti repellent to protect surfaces.
  • Encourage neighbours to look out for each other’s properties.

You can also contact your local Business Improvement Area (BIA) to ask for their advice or help on how to deal with graffiti.

What can you do if your child is involved in graffiti?

Under the Parental Responsibility Act, you are financially responsible for property loss, damage or destruction caused by your child under the age of 18.

If you have concerns that your child is involved in graffiti, talk to him/her about it. Signs that your child might be involved in graffiti include possession of materials like:

  • etching acid
  • shoe polish containers
  • spray paint cans
  • stencils
  • tips
  • graffiti tags on clothing, school books or back packs

You can help your children express creativity in more positive ways. Here’s how:

  • enrol them in art classes
  • encourage them to get involved in or work on design projects
  • encourage them to be more involved with school and community activities

Young people need to know that graffiti on public or private property is illegal and disrespectful. They should also know that there can be serious consequences for these actions.

For more information about how to talk to young people about graffiti, call the Ottawa Police Service Youth Section at 613-236-1222, ext. 5355.