Graffiti vandals go on rampage in downtown Innisfail

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INNISFAIL – Local RCMP have launched a mischief investigation into a widespread act of graffiti vandalism in the town’s downtown core.

It has been confirmed at this point by Innisfail RCMP that at least eight local businesses or structures were tagged by graffiti vandals during a spree during the evening of Dec. 27 and through into the next morning.

There are also unconfirmed reports the number of targets could be as many as 22 in the downtown area, including back alleys.

“We’re aware of eight right now, but I’m not aware of 20. That doesn’t preclude the point that maybe some people haven’t reported and we just haven’t seen them yet,” said Innisfail RCMP Sgt. Michael Zufferli, adding his office was made aware of the crime by Town of Innisfail employees who received complaints of unwanted graffiti.

He said the RCMP is working with the Town of Innisfail community peace officers to determine if there is any viable CCTV or security footage available from local downtown businesses that would help police identify the culprits.

“We do have a current mischief file but we don’t have a suspect yet,” said Zufferli. “But it looks like it was all one isolated incident that occurred consistently through the night on the 27th and into the morning of the 28th.”

Town councillor Jason Heistad, who is a member of the Innisfail Welcoming & Inclusive Community Committee that has fully endorsed public art in town, said he’s confident the culprits will soon be found by police.

“It’s disgusting that somebody can hit the community with well over 10 incidents of  tagging, and my message would be to the individual or individuals that did it is that there are tons of cameras out there and you are going to get caught. Like, use your head buddy,” said Heistad.

The sudden holiday season graffiti crime in the downtown core has shocked everyday Innisfailians, with many voicing their shock and anger on social media.

“This is just as disrespectful as when the graveyard got vandalized,” wrote Doris Kibermanis on the Innisfail Bulletin community Facebook page, noting one of the targets was a downtown mural that had been dedicated to the artist’s parents.

“This art you have dedicated to your parents should be cherished and respected not vandalized.”

The specific work Kibermanis was referring to was the new 95-foot wide by 12-foot-high Ed the Dragonfly mural on the east wall of the old downtown TNT building, now the home of the Direct Value Innisfail business; an artwork created by celebrated local artist Karen Scarlett, and dedicated to her late father Edwin.

“If you knew him (Scarlett’s father) you know he was a community builder, friend to everyone and was fiercely proud of this town he called home,” said Scarlett. “I am disappointed in this mess and I know my parents will/would be too.”

While the Ed the Dragonfly mural was targeted in the graffiti vandalism spree, the other three new downtown murals – the Welcome Mural, Legion Mural and Spotted Eagle Teachings mural on the west wall of the Century Theatre – were not touched.

However, the targeting of Ed the Dragonfly mural has shocked the local art community as a whole, with Wilma Watson, president of the Innisfail Art Club, now suggesting a specific space be created for taggers away from celebrated pieces of public art.

“I am 100 per cent disappointed with this, absolutely,” said Watson of the crime. “Perhaps we should provide a space in town somewhere for taggers so they have their own space, and they’re not defacing original artwork of others.”

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