property owners will first receive written notice. Then they'll have 15 days to either take care of the graffiti themselves --- or pay 50 dollars for the city to clean it up. If nothing is done, the property owner will be fined 150 dollars and the city will remove it.The TV news story about the new ordinance demonstrates a bizarre disconnect where the city council's punitive view toward graffiti is misplaced toward property owners, who as crime victims are not given the least consideration:
Councilors Michael Smith and Dorothy Roberts-Burns wanted the fee to be lowered from 50 dollars to 25. But the other councilors voted to keep it at 50. “I concur with Councilor Ginnings, in that the lower you make the fee – the closer it gets to zero – then it becomes just an entitlement,” said Councilor Rick Hatcher. “People think, ‘I’m supposed to get the city to do that for me.’” One Wichita Falls Business owner said the city must crack down. “It’s embarrassing to me, when I bring people to invest in our city,” said Rick Graham. “Specifically, the Hotter ‘N Hell bike race – we have graffiti all over the place, that’s been there for 15 years!”This to me is a bizarre set of opinions to hold all in the same head. Councilor Ginnings said, "the closer it gets to zero – then it becomes just an entitlement," but the property owner is a crime victim, not the offender.
Why shouldn't taxpayer dollars be used to paint over unwanted graffiti? The city is perfectly willing to use taxpayer funded police to arrest graff writers, the jail to incarcerate them, the courts to prosecute them, etc.. All that costs a lot more money than just cleaning up the graffiti would, so why is there such resistance on the council to treating crime victim restoration as an "entitlement"?
At the same time, business owners are complaining about graffiti that's been there 15 years. You could fine every business owner in town and that graff will still be on the wall until the day they clean it up. Why delay that improvement or put the financial onus on the property owner when a) they're the crime victim and b) the city is acting based in the public interest, thus justifying expense of public funds?
Besides, lots of cities have fine regimens for graffiti like Wichita Falls has created and that approach has hardly resulted in a "zero tolerance" atmosphere - it just gives city government another income stream from fining local property owners for things that aren't their fault.
The real solution and the most effective punishment for graffiti is not fines for property owners or incarceration for graff writers but simply rapid cleanup. If graffiti vanishes immediately and graff writers can't admire their work the next day, that's the strongest disincentive a city can create for wall writers and the best way to reduce graffiti as opposed to simply playing cat and mouse with taggers for years on end.
I continue to believe rapid cleanup (combined with establishing public spaces for invited graff) has the potential to actually reduce uninvited graffiti, whereas both punishing crime victims and spending tons of police resources chasing phantom-like graff writers will continue to fail to address the crux of the problem.