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Burnaby plans joint mural project with Chinese city

Burnaby city hall is planning to take one aspect of its anti-graffiti program international with a joint mural project in partnership with a city in China.

The proposed project would involve an art exchange between artists from Burnaby and Guiyang, in the province of Guizhou in southwest China, this year or next. The final project would be a pair of murals located in the two cities that would create a single image when put together, according to a city staff report.

"The design will amalgamate the images of people, culture and environment from Burnaby and Guiyang into a cohesive image that shows our commonality and embraces our differences," the report said.

Burnaby city hall is currently looking for potential locations that have high visibility, easy access for painting and have experienced problems with graffiti in the past.

Murals have been a large part of the city's anti-graffiti program, with five new ones installed last year alone. The artworks act as a deterrent as vandals are often  reluctant to deface the work of artists.

Overall, the program seems to be working, with the numbers of reported graffiti incidents down significantly from when the program started in 2007, according to the report.

Between June 2007 and June 2008, Burnaby received reports of 203 graffiti incidents on private property and 504 on city property. In that same period in 2012 and 2013, the numbers were down to 126 for private property and 218 for city.

Since the program's start, there have been 836 bylaw notices sent to tenants and property owners ordering them to clean up graffiti, with 90 per cent resolved satisfactorily.

To help those who are repeated victims of the vandalism, city hall organizes "community paint outs" where volunteers such as Burnaby Metrotown Rotary help paint over the graffiti.

As for city property, the number of incidents has increased from the year before, with bus shelters and light poles seeing the most vandalism, including acid etching of glass panels. Craft stores are being encouraged to again lock up their acid-etching products as they had been doing before, the report said. Burnaby also installed 15 anti-graffiti wraps on signal controller cabinets last year.

Public utilities such as TransLink, Telus and Canada Post have also seen a drop in incidents against their Burnaby property since the program started, but after decreasing for a couple years BC Hydro's numbers are back at 23 last year, the same level as in 2007.

"Progress has been made for Hydro to be more accountable in the removal of graffiti on their property," the report said.

In addition to education on the issue, Burnaby is also working on increasing deterrence by working on development of a graffiti task force for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, with future plans for police to target chronic offenders.

City hall and Burnaby RCMP are treating graffiti with zero tolerance. When caught, adult offenders are charged criminally while youth are referred to a restorative justice or other programs.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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