Amarillo police sound more worked up over the issue than the crime victims, one of whom declared, "It's a shame people have to do that to get attention for their group ... Things happen. ... It's just a pain to have to deal with it." That person doesn't come off nearly so angry or vindictive as the police officer, who basically wants to punish somebody as harshly as possible to set an example.
"We've had several cases over the last several years where the businesses have backed out of filing charges," [a police spokesman] said. "They forgave (the taggers). That'll teach 'em.
"We have to get organized and deal with (graffiti). Once we do catch them, please meet us halfway and file charges and stick with the charges."
I'm guessing, but possibly the reason folks won't press charges is that graffiti penalties are so high that victims don't believe the punishment is proportionate to the crime. They'd rather see no one prosecuted than have someone penalized too harshly. After all, when you start talking about felony charges that can ruin the rest of someone's life, who really thinks graffiti is worth that?
To err is human, said the poet, to forgive, Divine. Given the circumstances, with punishments for graffiti so over the top (the pictured graffiti, says the paper, will be prosecuted as a felony if they can find the perpetrators), do those business owners really deserve criticism for refusing to cooperate? Perhaps they realize something the Amarillo police spokesman doesn't?
to make arrangements to clean graffiti off their properties -- even if it's through the free service soon to be provided by the city's Municipal Court.I think San Angelo is getting this half right. To me, part of the answer must be publicly funded graffiti removal, as with the new Graffitibusters truck in Corpus Christi. (Though I'd prefer a faster response time than the seven days proposed in San Angelo.) However the ordinance as drafted would punish property owners who didn't report graffiti to the municipal court or pay to clean it up themselves.
The ordinance, aimed at counteracting an alarming increase in gang-related graffiti in recent months, would create the Municipal Court program, make arrangements for private-property owners to sign a waiver allowing city crews to clean vandalism, and prohibit anyone other than a parent or legal guardian from providing spray cans to anyone younger than 17. ...
Under the ordinance, city crews would clean graffiti on public property within seven days of notification, while private landowners would have 10 days to remove graffiti on their property before being issued a citation.
The city plans to distribute abatement and indemnification forms for residents to report graffiti and give permission for cleanup work on their property, said Municipal Court prosecutor Jason Jares, who crafted the ordinance.
That punishes the victims of crime in a way that doesn't seem justified. As one commenter at the Standard Times accurately put it, "If you're the city - it's a win/win deal. If you are the victim of a crime - it's a lose/lose deal." I think that's right. That's why I'd proposed offering municipal cleanup services, but without the coercion. Let the kids in juvenile probation work off their community service scrubbing walls. Why punish property owners for what criminals did to their property?
I suppose the concern is that some property owners will tolerate graffiti or that absentee property owners simply won't care. I don't know how to get around that hurdle without coercion - perhaps when the owner is unavailable, neighbors could be empowered to request graffiti removal. But punishing victims of crime seems small-minded given that law enforcement has itself found policing graffiti nearly impossible.
See Grits' recent series on graffiti solutions linked here.