The Trouble with Tagging in Victoria

Tagging is on the rise in downtown Victoria, according to the Downtown Victoria Business Association. Taggers are causing problems for local businesses and VicPD and it's only getting worse.

Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet.

Tagging is on the rise in downtown Victoria, according to the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA). The organization’s Clean Team, which removes the spray-painted signatures, counted 2,556 tags in 2016, 6,402 tags in 2017, and 10,445 tags in 2018. As of press time, there had been 7,059 tags in 2019.

Crime Stoppers estimated the cost of the problem in the region last year was over one million dollars.

“For a business, the cost of dealing with the tagging itself is not big it’s a can of paint,” says Bob Louie, a commercial property owner with several buildings downtown, including the heritage building that houses Murchies. “Within half an hour of a tag, it can be gone. But it’s a nuisance. We have to monitor it and I have to focus on that instead of helping my tenants and the myriad of other things a landlord has to do downtown.”

Constable Kevin Lastiwka, a community resource officer with the VicPD, hears from many frustrated business owners.

“It’s a real Catch-22 for businesses,” he says. “They clean it up but then the taggers return and do it again. But if it’s not removed, other taggers see it and add their own. By continuing to remove the tags, the taggers do eventually get discouraged.”

Lastiwka estimates there are 25 to 30 active taggers in the area. Some operate in crews and compete with each other, crossing out other crews’ tags with their own. Some taggers, he notes, are trying to “go all city” to get their tags in as many places as possible.

“It’s a difficult crime to prosecute and bring to court,” Lastiwka says. “We need to provide evidence. Surveillance video is valuable, so we’d encourage anyone that has a tagger on video to contact the police.”

This article is from the August/September 2019 issue of Douglas.