Port Coquitlam to graffiti artists: say it, don’t spray it

photo supplied City of Port Coquitlam

Following an uptick in both graffiti as well as bear spray attacks, Port Coquitlam is looking to make it harder for young people to access either aerosol.

The bylaw – which still needs to go through a public hearing and a further vote from city council – would require store owners to lock up spray paint and bear spray, similar to the way some stores keep cigarettes and shaving razors under lock and key. The city would also ban the sale of spray paint to minors.

There have been three bear spray assaults with bear spray in recent months, according to Port Coquitlam director of community safety Dominic Long. All three involved youth, he added.

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“If it’s the youth that are using it as a weapon, how are they getting it? Bootleggers?” asked Coun. Dean Washington.

After consulting with RCMP, city staff concluded there are a few convenience stores “that will freely sell to whoever,” Long said.

Ideally, having retailers keep spray paint and similar permanent markers in either a locked case or a staff-only store area “makes these items less accessible, as customers will have to ask for the products,” according to a city staff report.

The policy would likely be unique to the region, according to Long.

“In our research, the closest municipality that has implemented something like this is Winnipeg,” he said.

While support for the policy was unanimous, Coun. Steve Darling emphasized the need to speak to businesses before making any permanent marks.

“It seems like we’re putting a bit of an onus on [businesses] to fight crime, so to speak,” Darling said.

In 2022, complaints about graffiti increased 35 percent compared to the same period in 2021, according to a city staff report.

Port Coquitlam Community Centre as well as Lions and Settlers Park have been frequent targets for graffiti vandals, the report stated.

Hateful or profane graffiti must be removed within 48 hours of receiving a notice from the City of Port Coquitlam. Other graffiti must be wiped out in 14 days.

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