As most people in the community are aware, a quiet little Morinville neighbourhood got blanketed with graffiti last week, a collection of slogans, phrases and symbols related to hip hop, heavy metal, and horror movie culture. For those of you unaware, we have a full story here.
The senseless act of vandalism (not that there is a sensible act of vandalism) has upset residents of the neighbourhood and Morinvillians as a whole. A perfectly reasonable question many are asking themselves right now: Is my neighbourhood next?
But almost as soon as the last empty spray paint can hit the pavement for police to find the next morning, many in the community began bleating the trumpet of sympathy for the little miscreants. Oh, there is nothing for youth to do here. If only there was something for youth to do, there would be no vandalism. A swimming pool would eradicate vandalism in its entirety. Comments made almost as if people believed that with all those things youth would immediately turn into polite, clean cut characters from some television show from a bygone era.
There are three problems with this train of thought. First, it presumes the vandalism was perpetrated by teenagers. No evidence of that as yet. Second, it fails to recognize that the vast majority of youth in this community are doing quite fine finding things to do. Skate park is full most days, as are the parks, as are the coffee shops. Lastly, it fails to recognize that some young people are simply entitled little miscreants with absolutely no respect for property rights. Is their wonton destruction of private property the fault of a community who has not built them a swimming pool or palatial teen centre? Or is it the fault of parents who have never learned how to say no or set even the most basic of boundaries, including not letting their kids run the streets of Morinville like wandering Tom cats? One answer carries as much clout as the next.
Clearly, vandalism is the work of a select few. We do not have teens rioting in the street in anarchy to demonstrate how bored they are. We have one or a number of people who derive pleasure from wrecking possessions they did not pay for.
Studies have shown crime will escalate in areas where the presence of crime remains. A window left broken, the theory holds, leads to more broken windows and other types of crime. The theory is controversial to be sure, but when the local convenience store leaves graffiti on its north wall for more than a month for all to see, what message does that business send to the community and to the vandals? Is it any surprise that a month later we see more graffiti on the same wall as well as throughout our residential neighbourhoods? One does not have to be police to know the backwards Es on a fence of 97 Avenue and on the side of the local convenience store is likely written by the same paint can-holding hand.
The root causes of vandalism are varied. There is no argument there. But it is time our Community Peace Officers enforced this Community Standards Bylaw, or at least the part about covering up graffiti. Let’s cut the poor home owner some slack in performing the work they are now forced to do. But let us not tolerate any longer businesses leaving vandalism for several weeks at a time with no visible signs they ever intend to cover it up.
Perhaps if we as a community started covering up the graffiti a little quicker, there might be a little less of it. To do otherwise sends the message that we do not mind our buildings being decorated by scofflaws in the middle of the night.