Graffiti is not freedom of expression, but a depreciation of the community.

That was the message yesterday during the Capital City Clean Up Graffiti Investigation and Enforcement Workshop that the Edmonton Police Service attended at the Santa Maria Goretti Community Centre.

The workshop aimed to educate and emphasize the serious nature of graffiti, and how it affects the community as a whole.

Capital City Clean Up’s Graffiti Management program was initiated in 2008 in response to Edmontonians’ concerns about graffiti around the city.

The program works with police, bylaw enforcement, city staff, and citizens to reduce the amount of graffiti in Edmonton.

“One of the things I stress about graffiti is just how remarkably selfish a crime it is,” said Coun. Ben Henderson, the city’s deputy mayor.

“I think it is completely about ego, and it is an inherently anti-social thing that says ‘I as an individual am somehow more important than the society where I live.’”

Graffiti, when placed on public property without the owner’s consent is vandalism and a criminal offense. It depreciates property value, costs money to clean, and makes the city a less attractive place to live or visit.

“The whole basis is that (graffiti) affects the quality of life for people,” said police Chief Mike Boyd.

“And some of our neighbourhoods, over the course of some years, have gone into decline.

They have deteriorated, and we are seeing the revitalization of neighbourhoods in Edmonton.

“Where it has been revitalized, one of the things you are going to see is heavy commitment from the community to recognize what graffiti is, to recognize what litter is, and go after (it).”

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