Graffiti Prevention & Control

Dealing With Graffiti Risk

Graffiti is any writing, drawing or symbol applied to any surface without the consent of the property owner or their agent. Graffiti is a problem that if left unchecked can seriously damage the reputation of a community and adversely affect the economy and quality of life enjoyed by the residents.

Graffiti Prevention

Tagging Vs. Writing

Most graffiti is the work of “taggers” and “writers”. Taggers engage in the most basic forms of graffiti, which generally involve a personal, stylized (difficult to read) signature. Taggers are generally motivated to get their signature (or tag), “up” as many times as possible. Tags within our city, are seldom gang related. Writers are generally responsible for the more artistic forms of graffiti. Graffiti writers often work in small groups called crews and have been known to take significant risks for the purpose of displaying their “art” in highly visible spots. Writers can be competitive amongst themselves, which can result in the proliferation of graffiti.

Common Targets

Graffiti crime can occur anywhere the opportunity exists:

  • Public and private buildings

  • Parks and recreation facilities

  • Public transit vehicles, stations and shelters

  • Public telephone booths

  • Railway cars

  • Bridges and overpasses

Why Graffiti Prevention & Control Is So Important?

Uauthorized graffiti is a Criminal Offence that:

  • costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for clean-up

  • defaces structures and vehicles

  • lowers property values

  • results in cancelled or reduced school and recreation programs

  • generates fear and leads to more serious crime

Aside from the economic costs and loss of social and economic activity, undesired and unremoved graffiti sends the message that private property is not respected and no one really cares. In order to correct this perception, it is vital that you clear graffiti from your property as soon as possible in the event it happens. Graffiti is contrary to your community’s property standards bylaw and, if not removed, may result in a contravention of The City of Toronto Graffiti Bylaw (Municipal Code, Chapter 485).

Uncontrolled graffiti can start a cycle of fear and decay; it is important that people have a basic understanding of graffiti and know the best ways to prevent and control it.

Graffiti Prevention

The best way to prevent graffiti is to never let it happen. This can be accomplished at the design stage by using textured surfaces or limiting available surfaces. Where the environment has already been built, graffiti is often prevented by ensuring proper maintenance and restricting access to walls or vulnerable areas by:

  • Planting ivies and thorny vegetation that does not block sightlines around windows or doors

  • Painting murals and building barriers

  • Increasing lighting in vulnerable areas

  • Appling graffiti resistant protective coating on all exterior walls

  • Calling Police if you see suspicious behaviour in your community

Graffiti Control: Removal is Important

In the event that you are the victim of graffiti, timely clean-up will stop its spread and limit its recurrence. Graffiti taggers and writers are unlikely to waste their time and return to locations that do not offer a good payback for their risk, time and money (artistic pieces may require up to 20 cans of spray paint). A clear message must be sent to those responsible that this type of activity will not be tolerated. The most effective method of deterring graffiti crime is removal within 24 hours.

Timely clean-up will:

  • demonstrate ownership of your property

  • ensure that you comply with property standards bylaws

  • save you money and maintain the value of your property

Why it’s important to determine if my child is involved with graffiti?

People engaged in graffiti run the risk of significant legal and health problems (this is particularly true of graffiti writers who inhale spray paint or take unnecessary risks, such as climbing onto rooftops and structures for the purpose of exposing their work). In some cases, the parents of graffiti taggers and writers have had to pay thousands of dollars, on behalf of their children, in damages.

What Should You Look For As Telltale Signs

Do your teens have the following telltale signs of graffiti taggers and writers?

  • black permanent markers or scribes (used to etch graffiti on glass)

  • heavily tagged property, including furniture and rooms

  • “piece” books where graffiti ideas are sketched

  • a collection of “Krylon” spray cans often kept in a backpack

  • spray paint residue on fingers and clothes, particularly after regular dawn or dusk outing with friends

  • an interest in graffiti magazines and videos


Do not remove gang or hate graffiti without first contacting the Police.

If you see Graffiti Vandalism in progress, call 911 or contact the Police immediately at 416-808-2222.


To report a crime anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-8477(TIPS) or online at:

In An Emergency: Call 9-1-1.

To report a crime to the Toronto Police that is not an emergency call 416-808-2222.

More Updates

Frauds Against Seniors

Scams targeting older people are now called “the crime of the 21st century”, as they have become so widespread.

Seniors are actively pursued by fraudsters for many reasons, including

Identity Theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone. This rapidly growing crime affects more people every day in Toronto and around the world.

Yet, surprisingly most people think it will not

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

Healthy relationships are based on love, trust and respect for each other. Unhealthy relationships typically start with behaviour that is obsessive in nature and can quickly lead to abuse.