The tops were popped off dozens of cans of spray paint in Bridgeland this week to create a giant mural as part of an initiative to help prevent crime and strengthen community relationships.

The Calgary Police Service, Crime Stoppers, Mac’s Convenience Stores, Street Artist Wong, and local youth are partnering on the Mac’s StreetART Mural initiative to help develop positive relationships between businesses, the community and law enforcement.

“As much as we like to give this chance to the youth, I’m sure the officers when they were kids were fans of graffiti and really loved it but in their position right now, they can’t really indulge in that type of activity right? But when you give them a can and say, here, you’re allowed to now, they get the same reaction as if a child was given permission to come and paint upon the wall,” said Wong. “The kids like to see them enjoying it to say, you know what, they’re human too. It breaks that whole, ‘I’m in uniform’, like you’re standing next to a cop and you’re painting a wall and he’s racing you and you’re racing him and it’s like that’s really never been known, so for it to happen, and the kids are smiling and the officer is smiling, I think that’s what makes this program such a success.”

The artists started painting panels for the mural at the Mac's Convenience Store at 630 1st Avenue NE earlier this week and will complete the work sometime on Friday.

“When we heard this program and how successful it had been in Ontario we thought we’d give it a try here,” said CPS Sgt. Brett Hodel from the Crime Prevention Team. “We’ll see how it reverberates through the graffiti community and see if it has a positive reflection. If they notice it has a positive impact, they have several other stores that they’d like to try it again.”

Hodel says charging taggers doesn’t always have an impact so police are trying out the program to see if it resonates with the graffiti community.

“Hopefully by working with people and getting them interested, maybe redirecting the skills from a vandalism state, switch it over and make it more of an artist type of situation, like we have going here, if we can re-channel those talents, it’ll benefit them from bringing up more of their talents, hopefully they can channel it to a more positive thing and help the community and hopefully these kind of works of art will also just reflect on the community and bring a more positive overall atmosphere to the area,” said Hodel.

The program has seen positive results in crime reduction in other cities and is a chance for youth to engage in an activity that empowers them to make a positive difference.

“You always had that friction between the community, the police and these kids who are doing this graffiti so if we can kind of build on that and repair those damaged bridges and build some more positive bridges and get them doing things like this, which can have a positive impact in the community, I think that’s a step in the right direction,” said Sgt. Hodel.

“It got the attention of Harvard University and we’re now being studied and part of the study is they need more data, which means more murals. So we did nine over the summer, this would be number ten, we’re going back to Owen Sound to do number eleven and everywhere we’ve done it we’re seeing the crime go down immediately, which is a good thing,” said Sean Sporten, Manager of Security and Loss Prevention for Mac’s Convenience Stores in central Canada.

The mural is temporary but a permanent graffiti art installation is already being planned for the side of a downtown Mac’s store next year.

This is the first time the program has been rolled out in the west and police say they hope more businesses will come forward in the future and provide wall space for projects like this.