Cuenca’s Citizen Guard began operating night patrols on Monday in an effort to reduce the amount of graffiti on city walls. The action is the result of pressure from the city council to stop damage to Cuenca’s architectural heritage.
In addition to the stepped up patrols, council members want to see stricter enforcement of the law which prescribes fines of up to $3,660 and restoration work by the culprits.
Councilman Xavier Barrera says that an ordinance passed in 2012 has had little impact on the amount of graffiti in the city, especially in the historic district. “If the law is not enforced, its provisions mean nothing and our public and private assets will continue to be denigrated,” he said. He and other council members say that they are looking at how programs in other cities deal with graffiti.
Several council members suggest setting aside more wall space for “creative graffiti.” The 2012 ordinance did this, even providing funding to young artists, but some councilors say the program should be expanded.
A city-funded information campaign is visiting Cuenca schools aimed at stopping “malicious graffiti.” According the mayor’s office, the campaign aims at channeling young talent into constructive projects, and away from defacing walls on city streets.
Cuneca cultural director Boris Ortega says that stopping graffiti will be difficult. “Yes, we need to provide space for creative expression but the illegal activity, unfortunately, is an act of personal expression with a very long history,” he said. “It is attractive simply for the fact that it is forbidden. For some of the kids involved in this, having nighttime police will simply make the act more challenging.”