National anti-graffiti symposium in Coquitlam next month

The Evergreen Line may bring more graffiti into the Tri-Cities, law enforcement officials warn.

A national conference on how to combat graffiti will be hosted in Coquitlam next month.

And a top cop known for his work on geographic profiling will be among the speakers.

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Kim Rossmo, a former detective inspector with the Vancouver Police Department and now the criminology chair at Texas State University, will talk about graffiti vandals at the The Anti-Graffiti Symposium (TAGS) that runs Oct. 24 and 25 at the Executive Plaza Hotel.

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Delegates at TAGS will also hear from other law enforcement officials from across Canada and the U.K., a prosecutor as well as municipal leaders and a mother whose son was caught up in the crime.

Nicole Cairns, Coquitlam's community police office manager, who is organizing the symposium with her Port Coquitlam counterpart, Jodie McNeice, on behalf of the BC Lower Mainland Graffiti Task Force, said the conference is open to the public.

She said the gathering is especially relevant this year for the Tri-Cities as the rapid transit Evergreen Extension is due to open before Christmas.

"We know that SkyTrain has the potential to bring graffiti so we would encourage small business owners and homeowners to come out to learn about co-ordinated efforts," she said, adding, "Our focus is on prevention and outreach."

McNeice said taggers aren't just teenagers: Adults in their 20s and 30s who have gained a reputation over the years continue to deface buildings with crude images and words that are often misspelled.

Status is a big part of it, she said. And the higher their tag is on a building — or the more difficult a location — the more credibility they think they will gain within their community.

"The bottom line is they have put their tag on somewhere they haven't," McNeice said. "It's somebody's building and somebody has to take responsibility to clean it up."

"Some of them have artistic talent but they don't have permission," she said.

McNeice said the costs to the property owner can be in the thousands of dollars — per incident. In the Lower Mainland, police partner with some retailers to provide discounts to purchase paint and other removal products.

As well, officers talk to students about the repercussions of tagging and how graffiti can sometimes lead to other, more serious crimes, she said.

TAGS was last held in Metro Vancouver in 2008. Last year, more than 125 people attended the symposium in Ottawa.

• For tickets to the Coquitlam TAGS, visit tagsconference.com. Sponsors are also needed for the national event.

jwarren@tricitynews.com
@jwarrenTC 

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