Graffiti tagger forced to pay $15,000 in fines, damages to city of Nanaimo

The reign of “KHAOS” may soon be over.

A Nanaimo tagger who made his mark on the central Vancouver Island community with approximately 450 tags using the moniker “KHAOS” is now leaving his signature on legal documents after the city successfully sought payback in civil court.

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“I’m glad the city went after him,” business owner Fred Jeffery told Global News.

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“He certainly wasn’t very popular amongst our citizens for doing what he did.”

Kai Sei Cleave, 20, was accused of two counts of mischief for defacing public and private property, including buildings, railway trestles, dumpsters, underpasses, utility poles and boxes, and transit infrastructure.

When the BC Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with the criminal charges, the city of Nanaimo sued Cleave for costs in a civil action launched in January.

A settlement was reached in August with a consent order requiring the tagger to pay $10,000 in fines and $5,475 in damages to the city in instalments of $150 per month starting Sept. 1.

“I’m glad he’s being punished,” said Jeffery, who hopes Cleave will learn to have more respect for public space.

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Nanaimo’s mayor said city governments, businesses and taxpayers across the province are paying to repair the damage from unsolicited graffiti.

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“I certainly hope it sends a message to anyone else who wants to engage in this kind of stupid public behaviour that it is costly, that it ruins the image of the city and is a flagrant slap in the face of people who work hard every day,” Leonard Krog told Global News.

Cleave has been ordered to remove all his “KHAOS” tags and must not possess spray paint for two years.

He must also attend counselling or therapy, complete a 1,000-word essay on why graffiti vandalism is legally and morally wrong, and issue a written apology to the mayor, council and citizens of Nanaimo.

A Vancouver city councillor commended the tagging.

“What I really like about the Nanaimo approach is that there’s an educational component in there as well,” Coun. Pete Fry said.

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Facing a massive spike in graffiti vandalism since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Fry said Vancouver city staff, at the direction of city council, are examining fines and restorative justice options.

The city of Vancouver told Global News it is looking at various ways to address graffiti that impact businesses, and public and private property, with strategies being finalized and information to be sent to council later this year.

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Sanctioned sites where taggers could paint without consequences are also being considered, said Fry, who points to the success of Toronto’s Graffiti Alley, where once illegal tags are now appreciated by tourists and locals.

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“It’s not really a victimless crime, it costs a lot of money — especially during this pandemic where we have a lot of small businesses that are really struggling to get by,” Fry told Global News.

“This is an added burden they just really don’t need.”

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“When people get away with this, it encourages others to do it, so nobody likes it,” added Krog.

Global News has reached out to Cleave’s legal counsel, Ryan Edgar Butler, for comment.

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When reached at the address listed on court documents Sunday, Cleave’s family said he wasn’t home and declined to comment but wanted to share that he had recently lost his father.

Any tagging breach of the consent order will see an additional $10,000 penalty.

“He’ll pay a substantial fine if he’s ever caught doing it again,” Krog said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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