Downtown business fed up with graffiti tags offers reward

By Lindsay Ducharme

Not all Fort McMurray residents are welcoming the warmer weather. As Robert Vargo, owner of Alberta Motor Products, has come to realize, there is a direct correlation between an increase in temperature and an increase of graffiti tags on his building.

Vargo said vandalism to his facility began last year after the construction of his parkade was complete. He paid to have the tags professionally removed, no easy feat on concrete. Alberta Motor Products experienced almost a year free of graffiti, however, Vargo says all that changed about four months ago.

“One side of the building by Audio Designs in the back got plastered with a bunch of graffiti. Then a week ago the side right by the Friendship Centre got graffiti on the side of the wall and on our door.”

While the municipality offers free graffiti removal kits to victims of tagging, paint is not so easily removed from concrete. RMWB councilor Tyran Ault recently put forward a bylaw proposal to reduce graffiti but it may be awhile before any positive changes are made.

Fed up with the graffiti on not only his own property, but also throughout the city, Vargo decided to take matters into his own hands by offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the graffiti.

“People need to come forward not only for the $10,000 but because it’s their city, do they want it looking like a mess like the ghettos of San Francisco or Detroit?” he asked.

“I’m in total favour of art, but that’s not art, it’s graffiti and it’s not their property. 42 years I’ve been in town and it’s getting worse and worse, it’s everywhere. It’s not proper for a city; it makes the city look like a dump. We have enough trouble here already with people thinking Fort McMurray is so bad. The only way we can go up is by people making changes,” he added.

Vargo says he is thankful for support from the local RCMP and city councilors and hopes the community as a whole will rally behind the anti-graffiti movement. “The city is getting involved now, they are trying to change some laws. The more people that get involved the more likely we are to catch the person and when we do catch the person we are going to make an example out of them. We have some good hints already that we are working on. Mark my word we will catch them.”

“I hope people want to see their community get better and they want to see criminals brought to justice in some form,” he added.

Vargo is asking anyone with graffiti on their property, in their area, or those who have any information about who may be responsible for the tagging to call him at Alberta Motor Products at 780-743-2871. All names and information provided will be kept strictly confidential.