The City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police Service are committed to dealing with graffiti vandalism and strive to provide a clean, vibrant, safe and welcoming community for all residents, businesses and visitors.
What is graffiti?
Graffiti is the etching, painting or placing of a mark on public or private property.
When any type of graffiti is placed on public or private property it is considered an act of vandalism and is against the law.
Types of graffiti
The most common type of graffiti in the Ottawa area is "tagging". It is the writing, painting or "bombing" of an identifiable symbolic character or "tag" that may or may not contain letters. Other types of graffiti are: personalized, political, offensive and hate-related.
Hate related graffiti is graffiti that is motivated, in whole or in part by, hate/bias or prejudice based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any similar factor.
Gang related graffiti is rare in Ottawa.
Where is it?
Graffiti can be found almost everywhere - in the downtown core, suburban neighbourhoods and rural communities. It exists on many surfaces including bridges, buildings, walls, utility boxes, mailboxes, vehicles, and in parks.
Who is affected?
Graffiti is not a victimless crime. If graffiti is left to spread in our community it can:
- Leave the impression that no one cares and that no one is in control
- Lead to increased crime/vandalism
- Discourage business and shopping, and lead to lost business revenue
- Decrease aesthetic appeal
- Cost millions of dollars for removal
- Divert tax dollars from community programs and services
- Harm prosperity and reduce property values
- Affect the sense of safety and security for residents and visitors
The City of Ottawa recognizes that managing graffiti is most effective using a collaborative, multi-faceted approach. That’s why, in partnership with the Ottawa Police Service and community leaders; the City follows the 4E model of graffiti management:
- Education – Raising awareness in the community about the negative impact and costs associated with graffiti and about the importance of prevention and rapid removal.
- Empowerment - Maximizing available resources and relationships and encouraging property owners to take a key role in deterring graffiti.
- Eradication - Removing graffiti quickly and efficiently and encouraging timely reporting of graffiti.
- Enforcement - Applying municipal and other relevant laws when necessary, including the Graffiti Management By-law.
How do I report graffiti?
Don’t ignore graffiti – report it! The sooner you report graffiti, the sooner it can be removed and the likelihood of recurrence can be decreased by as much as 85%.
Below are simple tips to help report and prevent graffiti:
- If you see graffiti vandalism happening, it is considered a crime in progress and can be reported by calling 9-1-1.
- If your property has been vandalized with graffiti, call the Ottawa Police Service Call Centre at 613-236-1222, ext. 7300 (TTY:613-760-8100). All hate-based graffiti should be reported to the Ottawa Police Service Hate Crime Section at 613-236-1222, ext. 2466. Property owners are responsible for removal of graffiti from their property.
- To report graffiti on public property (parks, roads, street signs, utility boxes, newspaper boxes or Canada Post boxes) or private property (residential, businesses, industrial), fill out the online form or call the City of Ottawa at 3-1-1 (TTY 613-580-2401). The City will notify the property owner of the graffiti and ensure the property owner removes it promptly.
- If you wish to report graffiti vandalism anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 613-233-TIPS (8477) or 1-800-222-8477.
Graffiti and the Law
The law is clear – placing graffiti on public or private property is a crime.
- Under the City of Ottawa’s Graffiti Management By-law, graffiti vandals can face fines of $615 including victim surcharge.
- Under the Criminal Code of Canada, graffiti is considered vandalism and the appropriate charge is “mischief under or over $5,000”. Under the legislation, graffiti vandals may be subject to additional community service hours and or criminal charges. A conviction could result in a criminal record that can impact a young person’s future including employment opportunities or travel outside the country.
- Under the Parental Responsibility Act, parents are financially responsible for property loss, damage or destruction intentionally caused by their children who are under 18 years of age.
The City of Ottawa’s Graffiti Management By-law requires that all property within the City of Ottawa remain free of graffiti, with the exception of any area designated as a “legal graffiti wall”.
Property owners who choose not to remove graffiti in a timely manner will receive written Notice requiring compliance. A minimum of seven (7) days will be given to comply. If a property owner chooses not to comply with the Notice, contractors may be hired by the city to remove the graffiti. Associated costs will be added to the property owners’ municipal tax bill.
What is a Legal Graffiti Wall?
A legal graffiti wall otherwise known as a “free space” is an area where graffiti is permitted and encouraged. The City of Ottawa currently has 3 legal graffiti walls at the following locations:
- Underside of the Dunbar Bridge – 1301 Bronson Avenue.
- Albert Street Education Centre Retaining Wall – 422 Slater Street.
- Bob MacQuarrie (Orleans) Recreation Complex – 1490 Youville Drive.
Goals of the Graffiti Management Strategy
The overall goal of the Graffiti Management Strategy is to have a clean, safe and graffiti-free city. We are working towards our goal with a commitment to...
- Removing graffiti as quickly as possible
- Increasing community capacity to manage graffiti
- Enhancing civic pride and prosperity for residents and businesses
- Encouraging the use of prevention techniques
- Providing easy and accessible reporting options
- Supporting residents and businesses with appropriate tools and resources
- Involving business, residents, youth, community organizations and graffiti writers as partners
- Adopting best practices and research based solutions to graffiti management
The value of one! The power of many!
Volunteers can strengthen our community and help make Ottawa a graffiti-free city.
Participating as a volunteer in the graffiti management program has numerous benefits for you and your neighbourhood including
- Building your neighbourhood’s capacity to manage graffiti;
- Bringing residents together to develop community solutions;
- Becoming a role model in your community;
- Proactively engaging neighbours to prevent crime;
- Increasing safety and cleanliness;
- Helping to promote and maintain healthy neighbourhoods.
You can get involved by:
- Picking up your free Community Graffiti Removal kit and committing to removing graffiti on public assets in your neighbourhood. Kits are designed to get you started in removing graffiti on smooth surfaces including signs, traffic control boxes, newspaper and mailboxes. Each starter kit includes graffiti cleaning wipes, gloves, removal instructions and safety information. Many residents across Ottawa have already made an impact on the appearance of our community with these kits. Register a Graffiti Removal Project with the Cleaning the Capital Campaign at (www.ottawa.ca/clean). You can also request a kit by e-mail.
- Organizing a Community Graffiti Removal Event as part of the Cleaning the Capital program or on your own. Planning a graffiti removal event doesn’t have to be complicated. All it takes is some enthusiasm and some careful planning. The City of Ottawa can support you by providing removal supplies and additional resources if required.
- Adopt-a-Park or Adopt-a-Roadway and work together to ensure your space is kept graffiti-free. Adopt-a-Park/Adopt-a-Roadway is a citywide program that encourages community involvement in the care and maintenance of our parks and roadways. It is a partnership between volunteers and the City. The program is open to community groups and individuals who want to take an active role in enhancing the quality of life in our community.
Together we can make Ottawa graffiti-free!
To learn more about graffiti management you can watch this video.
For more information on the Graffiti Management Program please contact:
Graffiti Management Program
100 Constellation Cr, 5th floor