Bylaws related to graffiti | Recording, reporting and removing graffiti | Graffiti abatement program

The following is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about graffiti and the answers to the FAQ about graffiti.

What is graffiti?

According to Calgary’s Community Standards Bylaw 32M2023, graffiti is defined as ​words, figures, letters, drawings or stickers applied, scribbled, scratched, etched, sprayed, or attached on or to a surface.

The markings may appear on any surface, including walls, fences, mail boxes, newspaper vending machines, signs, utility boxes, roads, sidewalks and windows.

Is graffiti a victimless crime?

Graffiti hurts everyone. The condition of a city's public spaces is a direct reflection of its residents' commitment to the care and upkeep of their community. Calgary is an international business centre, popular tourist destination and home to over one million people. To project a positive image to its citizens and to the rest of the world, Calgary must appear well maintained, clean and safe. The city's attractiveness as a place to visit, conduct business and invest in decreases as graffiti and other destructive acts increase.

Additionally, graffiti:

  • hurts individuals and identifiable groups when it contains discriminatory or hateful messages.
  • can contain words that are profane, obscene and offensive, which is harmful to children who see it.
  • is an eyesore that ruins the natural and architectural beauty of a city.

Is graffiti gang-related?

Less than 1 per cent of the graffiti in Calgary is gang-related (CPS, 2010).

Why can't we just leave graffiti up?

Graffiti attracts further vandalism as well as other crimes. Its presence suggests that residents don't care about their community. Graffiti should always be removed within 24 to 72 hours of its appearance, after recording and reporting it. If graffiti is left up longer, the location can attract additional attention from other vandals.

Can I clean up graffiti on my own?

If the graffiti is located on your own property, you can remove it right after recording and reporting it. Please report all graffiti to Bylaw Services at 3-1-1 or (403) 268-CITY (2489) - if calling from outside the city.

What can we do to minimize graffiti?

  1. Remove graffiti from your property as soon as you notice it. This way it is easier to remove. Fresh paint is more easily removed than paint that has had time to bond with a surface.
  2. Report any graffiti on City or private property. If you are reporting graffiti on your own property, you can also take advantage of the Private Graffiti Abatement Program.
  3. If you see someone in the act of putting up graffiti anywhere in the city, please call the police at 9-1-1. Always remember that safety comes first and do not confront the vandal on your own.
  4. If you spot graffiti on your neighbour's property, inform them right away. Encourage them to clean it up as soon as possible after they record it and report it to the City via 3-1-1 or by reporting graffiti online.
  5. If you have to cover up graffiti, paint the whole wall. If it's not possible to paint the entire wall, block the offending section with a square or rectangle-shaped area of paint.
  6. Try not to use paint to cover up graffiti on bare surfaces, such as concrete, stone or brick walls. Instead, remove the graffiti with solvents and other specialized supplies.
  7. An anti-graffiti coating can be applied to exterior surfaces. The coating is a repellent, which minimizes the graffiti because it is easier to remove.
  8. You can obtain paint and other removal materials from Dulux Paints​ and Cloverdale Paints. For more information on recycled paints, contact Calibre Environmental Recycling. You may also want to check out the graffiti services and resources available to Calgarians.

Why is there a bylaw for graffiti compliance?

The Community Standards Bylaw​ was created as a tool for the City to compel property owners to remove graffiti within a reasonable amount of time. If graffiti is left on a property, it will spread to the surrounding buildings and throughout the community. Calgary is an international business centre and so needs to maintain an appearance that is clean, safe and inviting.​​​​​​​​​​​