Toronto Mayor Wants Residents To Report Graffiti Via iPhone, And Pay For The Privilege

from the good-luck-with-that dept

As our Canadian readers surely know, Toronto has a weird relationship with its current mayor, Rob Ford. I won’t get into all the details, but basically he’s a bit of a clown, elected by outlying semi-suburban neighbourhoods and roundly hated by most people downtown (except the city press, for whom he is an endless source of mockable quotes and photos). Among his many, many controversial initiatives as mayor is an anti-graffiti push that has come under fire for indiscriminately targeting authorized street art alongside actual vandalism (including the removal of one mural that was actually commissioned and paid for by the city itself). Apparently he’s just as clueless about technology as he is about art, because as reader abc gum sends in, he’s now asking people to report graffiti with an iPhone app—which costs money.

Taking the city’s battle to clean up Toronto digital, Rob Ford visited a lane way near St. Clair and Lansdowne to unveil a new mobile app that lets citizens report unwanted graffiti instantly. Instead of coughing up for a phone call, smart phone users can now snap a picture and whisk it off to 311 for processing.

“This is as efficient as it gets,” remarked Ford at press conference earlier today. “This will make it easier than ever to report graffiti vandalism and help keep the city spotless.

The app, which costs $1.99 (and is currently only available for iPhone), lets Apple smartphone users send photographs directly to the city with a request to remove of the offending material. If the property owner fails to clean up the tag, the city will – so they say – step in and bill the owner for the work.

Uh-huh. So instead of “coughing up” a phone call to the city information line, Rob Ford is hoping people will cough up two bucks (not even 99 cents?). And not just any people—the iPhone wielding, app downloading demographic that is his biggest enemy and the least interested in fighting graffiti. Whether it’s pitched as a useful service for citizens or a request that they do their civic duty, slapping a price tag on it makes it little more than a joke.

Perhaps the most telling thing is that the app is built on the Open311 API that Toronto (among other cities) uses to provide access to city services—and yet nobody else seems to be bothering to try to build a graffiti reporting app. If there was a demand for it, there would be a swarm of developers working on it, and they probably would have beaten the city to the punch. Somehow I doubt that a two-dollar app is going to make people suddenly realize they’ve wanted this all along.

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Comments on “Toronto Mayor Wants Residents To Report Graffiti Via iPhone, And Pay For The Privilege”

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I am outraged says:

Innovation is not all smart stuff

people will do it

There are so many “”fake outraged“” people out there.
(some are bound to have iPhones)
They complain about every trivial thing , stuff that has nothing to do with them.
Even if it doesn’t impact their lives in any way…they don’t just complain , they complain hard.

But then again…. if you don’t complain about Apple ripping you off , you probably won’t complain about graffiti.
forgot… “fake outraged” people only complain about stuff that doesn’t affect them.

people will do it

ethorad (profile) says:


Using your numbers granted the city would be up $250k but there’s no indication that this would be earmarked to combat graffiti. However, the citizens of the city are down $1m. Since have proved willing to spend $2 each on something to help the city, why not make it free and have a “donate money to the graffiti cleaning effort”. That way you would get the whole of the $1m to fight graffiti.

As it stands it’s crowd funding with a 75% tax rate which is pretty poor.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:


Leigh, my boy, please stop writing about your silly country to the north. We aren’t obsessed with your country like you all are with ours. You can’t get enough of this great country. That’s understandable, since the U.S. is fucking awesome. But don’t think for even one second that we care about Canada.

Suck it up, buttercup. We have a sizeable Canadian readership here. You don’t like it, go read a different blog.

I am outraged says:


sorry for off topic…
My comments held for moderation / spam filter
Can you allow them ? ( x2 )

BTW… American narcissism gets me too
from the “greatest country in the world”
Highest incarceration rate in the world… USA…USA…USA

where I am…..
Belfast N.I. U.K over 700% LESS prisoners relative to population.
You don’t hear me bragging while getting free health care that Northern Ireland is way way way better than USA.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Reporting graffiti is like reporting roaches or rats

By the time the city acts, they’ve gone elsewhere, or simply become an accepted part of local life.

Toronto is a pretty graffiti-friendly city, too. We have lots of commissioned murals on the sides of businesses and such in quite a few neighbourhoods, and some factories in the west end have for years volunteered a huge stretch of their back walls – visible from an above-ground portion of the subway – as a graffiti free-for-all, so taking the train past there is always awesome. But Rob Ford wants to change all that. He goes and stands by a garage in Scarborough and points to some crappy threat scrawled in permanent marker for a photo op – then the teams go out and sandblast a mural that was commissioned by one of the city councillors for their neighbourhood.

Anonymous Coward says:

sounds like a typical situation where certain people and certain devices are the biggest heap of crap going until the use is there for something specifically wanted by those that keep condemning. and to be expected to pay yourself for their benefit as well is more than a bit naughty. and from a country that charges for making calls to emergency services as well! would have thought a quick ‘piss off’ was in order.

Anonymous Coward says:

Graffiti does make an area look bad and I have called in the past. I was asked so many questions about myself that I felt like I had done something wrong. I would gladly pay $2 to report graffiti, crime, etc. and not have to talk to anyone. Recently I was walking my dogs and found a car that had been vandalized; I reported it and they asked me to wait for the officer. Thirty minutes later the officer came and asked the same quesitons they asked on the phone. This will be the last time I actually call to report anything. DON’T GET KILLED IN FRONT ON ME, I’M NOT CALLING! I’ll report it with my app though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Crime fighting Apps

Shouldn’t this be filed under “really stupid idea department”
How much graffiti does Toronto Have?
Shouldn’t graffiti be reported by the building owner or tenant?
Can’t people just call someone to report vandalism?
Do people even realize that their smartphones can be used as a phone?

Perhaps they will introduce an App that lets you know when your being mugged.

Or one that I would really like to see is one that transfers a Nickel from a politician’s bank to yours, every time they lie!
I would be freakin Rich!!

Trails (profile) says:


Oh, they’re trying. A for effort, Toronto Municipal Gov’t!

I agree with AC here. We’re too focused on results. The efforts of our city council are not properly rewarded. Who cares that the schools are underfunded, transit is massivley overburdened, and the council is wasting millions on unsourced contracts, so long as they’re giving it the good ol’ college try.

I look forward to the next municipal election season where campaigns espouse the virtues “Vote for me, I’ll try!”.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:


It’s one of those things where the city is taking a step in the right direction, trying to embrace technology, and all Marcus can do is shit on them for trying.

Hahahahahaha. Coming from the guy who can’t wait to shit on every artist/company/anything we post here. I’ll say this for you: you’ve turned credibility-obliterating hypocrisy into an art form.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Crime fighting Apps

That is where the stupidity lies. Especially when you consider the fact that a building owner has commission the mural.

Building owner pays money for people to paint a mural.
City sandblasts it and sends the bill to the building owner.
Building owner is out the money for the mural and the unauthorized removal of the mural.

Talk about jerk moves by the city.

Bennett (profile) says:

Ford is a Fool

Judging by many of the comments here, it’s obvious that many of the readers do not understand just how much of a buffoon Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford is.

Yes the idea of a graffiti reporting app does have some technical merit, and yes it could bring the City of Toronto some funding. However the numbers we’re talking about are not significant.

We’re talking about a mayor, who on his first day of office threw away $65,000,000.00 of annual funding, in order to “stop the war on the car”. This is in a city that allegedly has the worst commute times in North America! Even if every Torontonian bought this iPhone app, we’re barely talking about a fraction of the funds Ford has thrown away!–toronto-ranked-last-in-survey-of-commuting-times

There are other questions of course. How much did it cost the city to develop this application? How much money is the city spending employing by-law officers to police businesses that have graffiti on their buildings? (yes I’ve seen a business I consult for ticketed first hand!) If the city really cares about cutting costs, and being digitally responsible, why aren’t they running GNU/Linux instead of a product produced by a foreign firm?

Sadly for those of us unfortunate enough to live in Toronto, we have to live with Ford for a minimum of two more years. Worse, we have to live with a population that widely elected this racist homophobe into office.

If you think I’m exaggerating about the racist/homophobe line, I can produce City Council minutes, and other quotes to backup my statements.

Anonymous Coward says:


“Thirty minutes later the officer came and asked the same quesitons they asked on the phone.”

Hmm, the one time I called the police to have an officer come for something, they did that too. Now, I could almost see them repeating the questions to make sure it was the same person who called them, but the officer asked the questions AFTER she asked for my ID, which I provided. It really felt like a waste of her time and mine… especially since even if the information I was providing was totally false it wouldn’t have had any impact on anything.

“I’ll report it with my app though.”

They probably wouldn’t bother with graffiti, but for anything else they’d probably use your phone information to find you and ask you those questions anyway.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:


Why should Torontons have to purchase an app that was developed with taxpayer money? Why doesn’t the city government embrace common sense? If the vandalism bugs me so much I might as well spend the $3 on paint and do it myself instead of purchasing an app for $2 (iDevice required otherwise, purchase iDevice $200-$600 with ~$2500 two-year voice and data agreement), reporting the vandalism, and waiting 2.5 years for it to be cleaned up.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Ford is a Fool

You forgot to mention that he followed it up by cancelling an $8 billion transit plan that had been developed over the last ten years. Cancelling that plan cost the city $49 million dollars in cancellation fees.
Then he tried to push through a subway only plan that would have cost the city $1 billion dollars more than the amount of money available, with the expectation that developers would cough up the extra money to finish it.
Funny how after a year of trying, nobody has been willing to commit anything in the way of donations to the project.

Bennett (profile) says:

Ford is a Fool

I would have mentioned many more things about Ford, but I didn’t want to get too off topic. I wasn’t perfectly sure about the value of the fines for cancelling Metrolinx, I actually thought it was upwards of $65 million. Making his first day in office cost us a whopping $130 million.

These are just the ‘hard’ values though. There is a massive derived cost to his actions. By making it easier for individuals to afford cars, and making it harder for individuals to take transit, the man is costing us a fortune in time and money caused by traffic.

Rob Ford has actually had me banned from his facebook page for pointing these things out. Worse than that Ford actually has someone prune his Facebook page so it only shows positive comments. All this from a man who claims to want to listen to “the hard working voters”.

I’m far from the only one banned/pruned from his Facebook page. I have a friend, who’s a respected Ph.D. who wasn’t just blocked from FB, but had his posts pruned, so they had no context. His only crime was convincing a Ford supporter that Ford was wrong.

The worst part is, he claims to want small government, yet presumably someone from the city is censoring his Facebook page.

Anonymous Coward says:

You shouldn't have to pay to report crime.

You can argue whether or not people would pay to do this, but I think that kind of misses the point. If someone is being murdered, most people aren’t going to worry about a $1.99 fee to call 911. That doesn’t mean that such a fee is appropriate.

It should never cost money to contact the police to report a crime. I’m sure that they have costs associated with developing the app, but if it they weren’t willing to bear the costs then they never should have developed it.

Anonymous Coward says:


Well Chuck, if you read the story, you would realize that the graffiti isn’t on THEIR property, it’s on other people’s property. So unless you want to be a vandal yourself (by painting on someone else’s property), you cannot go out and just be a vigilante graffiti removal dude.

Second, your argument about device cost and the like is kind of stupid, especially in light of the standard techdirt argument for piracy, which is that the cost of the computer and the connection isn’t relevant because the people who would do it would “have it anyway”. Anyone who is going to go out and take a service plan for 3 years just to download a $2 app is as stupid as they come. Thinking people are that stupid is, well, “special”, which is where you ended up.

Michael says:

Anything for a photo op

Porky Pig (Ford) has a habit of going after photo ops and slinging one liners because he has nothing of substance to say. This is the guy who wants to close libraries because he doesn’t think people want to read. He gets drunk and yells at people that look foreign to him at hockey games, tries to shout down any dissenting opinion in council… he is not going to be at the trough long. He’ll be sizzling bacon soon enough.

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