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Beach Triangle Residents Association

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The Beach Triangle Residents Association, Toronto, Ontario

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Report Graffiti: Often a Symptom of Greater Problems

By Chris Blythe

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Reporting graffiti is more important than you may realize. It is not 'just' property damage. It may even look pleasant and well thought-out. But graffiti often signals far more serious criminal activity. Graffiti often signals gang activity, it can mark drug distribution areas, and spread hate and race-related messages. Look good, or not, it is property damage. For these and a myriad of other reasons police are now actively requesting graffiti be reported. 

And though you're not likely to see any flashing lights or officers at your door within minutes of your call, you can rest assured reports will be followed up. Newly applied 'tags,' 'throw-ups,' and 'pieces' will be investigated. Significant marks are photographed and entered into a graffiti database that is used to identify trends and supplement other investigations. The force even has highly-trained graffiti analysts working on the problem.

What's more, graffiti that is reported can be cleaned up more quickly. This has been proven to reduce the chances or recurrence. And, experts say where graffiti exists, the problem grows.

If you see someone in the act, call 911 and report a crime in progress. If it's after the fact, call 311 and say you'd like to report new graffiti.

Take note, however. Though those in charge at 55 Division and investigators in various crime task forces throughout Toronto are insistent that graffiti be reported, it sometimes seems the reporting channel has not yet been fully implemented. You may meet some resistance from a 311 operator unfamiliar with graffiti reporting. I've even had the police radio room tell me not to bother unless the graffiti is gang-related. (How's the average person to know, I ask?) Be respectful but be persistent. Ask that the supervisor be consulted.

Let the experts deal with it. But let's give 'em a hand, shall we?... ...Report graffiti!