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Graffiti Management

What is graffiti?

Graffiti is the etching, painting, or placing of a mark on public or private property.
When graffiti is placed on public or private property without permission, it is considered vandalism.

What about urban art?

Graffiti is also the name for a specific style of street art that is part of traditional and modern hip-hop culture, often referred to as urban art. Public and urban art play an important role in our community and can contribute to community pride and beautification. By encouraging residents to place art legally in public and private areas, we can maintain the integrity and the beauty of our city. Legal walls, community art programs and mural opportunities are available across the City to support artists and creative expression.

Check out some of these local programs and opportunities:

  1. Ottawa School of Art
  2. House of Paint
  3. Legal graffiti walls

What are Legal Graffiti Walls?

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:

  1. Underside of the Dunbar Bridge – 1301 Bronson Avenue
  2. Albert Street Education Centre Retaining Wall – 422 Slater Street
  3. Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex-Orléans – 1490 Youville Drive

Goals of the Graffiti Management Strategy

The overall goal of the Graffiti Management Strategy is to have a safe and clean city that we call all be proud of. The City is working to support this goal with a commitment to:

  • Remove problem graffiti as quickly as possible
  • Provide easy reporting options for problem graffiti
  • Increase community capacity to manage problem graffiti
  • Enhance civic pride and prosperity for residents and businesses
  • Support residents and businesses with appropriate tools and resources
  • Involve residents, youth, community organizations, artists and businesses as partners
  • Adopt best practices and research-based solutions

Problem graffiti and how to report it

Hate graffiti

Hate graffiti is motivated by hate, bias or prejudice, based on race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientations, or any similar factor.

Offensive graffiti

Offensive graffiti is generalized as being obscene or offensive in nature such as but not limited to, swear words or sexual drawings, and is not hate based.

Vandalism graffiti

Vandalism based graffiti includes writing, painting or etching a symbol or "tag" that may or may not contain letters and is not considered offensive or hate based graffiti, and is made without permission or consent from the property owner.

Report problem graffiti

Don’t ignore problem graffiti – report it! You can create a service request to report graffiti on public and private property.

  • Public property and assets include City of Ottawa property, utility boxes, schools, National Capital Commission and other government property, newspaper vending boxes and railways.
  • Private property includes residential housing, businesses, commercial and industrial buildings.

Hate graffiti

For all locations, please call Hate Graffiti, Ottawa Police: 613 236-1222 immediately. Due to their sensitive nature, these requests cannot be submitted online.

Offensive or vandalism graffiti

Offensive or vandalism graffiti can be reported by calling 3-1-1 or online:

Graffiti on OC Transpo property

OC Transpo property includes buses, trains, bus stops, bus shelters, benches, garages, or OC Transpo administrative buildings.

Report problem graffiti on private property

You may create a service request to report graffiti on private property. Private property includes residential housing, businesses, commercial and industrial buildings. For other property, please report graffiti on public property. If you are reporting multiple graffiti offences, please complete a separate service request report for each.

Report vandalism graffiti on private property

Report offensive graffiti on private property

Working together to prevent problem graffiti

The City of Ottawa and the 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.

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 problem 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 problem graffiti.
  • Eradication - Removing problem 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.

Prevent It

To deter graffiti vandals and prevent graffiti from occurring or recurring on your property, there are some simple methods that you can use.

  • Work with community artists to commission a mural on a persistently targeted wall.
  • Remove problem graffiti as soon as it appears. The faster problem graffiti is removed, the less desirable your property becomes to vandals.
  • Plant vines, shrubs or thorny plants to limit access to walls.
  • Move vehicles, dumpsters and other items away from walls and cover pipes to prevent access to the roof or upper levels of a building.
  • Consider applying a special coating to protect surfaces from potential damage caused by graffiti removal.
  • Design and build structures that are not attractive targets for vandals. Avoid large, smooth and light coloured surfaces.
  • Use fences and other barriers to discourage through traffic near your home or business.

Graffiti Management By-law

The City of Ottawa’s Graffiti Management By-law was enacted in January 2008. The By-law requires that property within the City of Ottawa remain free of graffiti.

Graffiti vandals

  • The law is clear – placing graffiti on public or private property is a violation. Under the By-law, graffiti vandals can now face fines of $610 including victim surcharge.

Property Owners

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.