Thursday, June 03, 2010

Graffiti grandstanding about reelecting pols, not solving problems for property owners

Pols in Corpus Christi have been grandstanding over graffiti for years, insisting on ever-longer sentences for graff in court and for harsher sentences at the legislature. Yet seemingly everyone from Corpus you'll ever hear discussing the matter insists the problem continues unabated, as typified by this report from KRIS-TV ("Cracking down on graffiti," June 2):
Corpus Christi Police Department is gearing up for the summer and, unfortunately, more graffiti.

Members of the Corpus Christi Police Department's Graffiti Task Force say they're seeing more and more graffiti on traffic signs and abandoned buildings.

They plan on cracking down on offenders and the city will clean up the mess as soon as possible.

The Police Department, this summer, is also getting tougher on home and business owners who don't clean up graffiti.

I left the following at the news site's comment section in response:

How can this be? I thought all those long sentences for graff must have completely eliminated graffiti in Corpus by now? The kids aren't getting a slap on the wrist - repeatedly CC taggers get felony charges, because after all, isn't political grandstanding the solution to every problem?

It costs taxpayers $98,000 per year to send a youth to TYC for a felony graffiti charge (plus policing and court costs). That same $98K would go a LONG way toward rapid cleanup whenever graffiti is reported, which is a bigger deterrent (because the goal of graff is to be seen) than the threat of punishment.

Politicians' goal isn't to stop graffiti. It's to convince the public of their empathy and shared outrage to gain votes. That's why you get overhyped rhetoric and pretend solutions that punish property owners more than assisting them.

See related Grits posts:

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gang grafitti on people's homes is an appalling crime and needs to be dealt with harshly. These little gang-bang thugs who do this really just need the ever living crap beaten out of them, but that's not something that we can do. A nice stay in the pokey is better. Repeated grafitti on people's homes should net a serious sentence. Either that, or you allow people to shoot.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:15 - What do you think a "stay in the pokey" will accomplish besides taking a wall-writer and giving them the connections and knowledge to become much more dangerous criminals?

Gang graffiti on people's homes is a rare crime. (Outer fencing is more common, but not typically houses.) By volume, most graff in Texas is not done by gangs (in Austin, e.g., police say it's just 15-20% of the total), and commercial and public structures are much more common targets.

So if you make the punishments maximum-harsh based on the false assumptions you stated, it results in injustice to the vast majority of defendants who don't fit that description and a MASSIVE waste of taxpayer dollars better spent on cleanup.

The right sentence for graff writers is strict probation and community service cleanup assignments.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you grits. But just as Anon 7:15 noted, many people confuse graffiti with gang activity. Sure, there is a connection, but not nearly as widespread. The problem is that too many taggers are labeled as gang members, and once they hit the system, they can be targeted as such. I have noticed that LE have been expanding gang outreach and knowledge across the state to help truly identify who is indeed a gang member and who is just living a popular lifestyle, but we need to do better at distinguishing between these two. Taggers need strict probation, and should be required to clean up their own communities. There is nothing like spending 5 hours on a hot Saturday morning cleaning up graffiti.

Anonymous said...

So kids are doing less art in school and more out in the streets. But all legislators can think to do is increase punishments, not artistic opportunities.

Don't worry about it, its just art. They don't have any paper to draw on.

Anonymous said...

1042 - Why don't you give up your welfare check for paper they can write on?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What a philistine you are, 10:42! You might as well say "Why would kids want to have sex with each other when they could masturbate alone?" Only someone who'd never had sex would think that advice would be taken. Art (even, perhaps especially, bad art) exists for the purpose of interacting with its viewers.

That's why I suggest spending scarce resources on "rapid cleanup" instead of $98K per year to incarcerate mostly juvenile offenders. Deny them an audience and they won't keep doing it. Plus cleanup is something that can actually be acccomplished, while police make fewer than one arrest for every 1,000 graffiti incidents.

Also, just to have said it, graff writers have plenty of paper - welcome to the age of stencils, stickers and pasteups! Kinkos is probably the biggest enabler of street art in the country, maybe even more than Krylon or Rustoleum!

Anonymous said...

Homes/fences--whatever, you do this repeatedly on private property, particularly on private residences--you need serious time, like years. You simply cannot ask law-abiding citizens to accept this nonsense. Else allow homeowners to beat the everliving crap out of them.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Since police make fewer than one arrest for every 1,000 graffiti incidents, 12:04, do you honestly think long incarceration stints for the handful caught would make the tiniest dent in the problem? That's full on delusional.

I understand why you're angry, but you should be seeking solutions, not revenge. If someone tags your fence and 999 times out of 1,000 you never know who, all the anger in the world won't make your suggestion any more reasonable.

As for your threats of vigilantism, I seriously doubt YOU can catch them either. That's the kind of tuff talk blowhards engage in anonymously on the internet but would/could never back up in real life.

Anonymous said...

true grits! BUT if you do catch one in the act you should have the legal right to make them clean it up until the damaged area shines...using whatever force is necessary to make them comply.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

As my Dad likes to say, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Anonymous said...

Come on Scott... You don't seriously believe that homes are not common targets of gang tagging, do you? When I lived in Chicago, I had to clean my garage door at least twice a week - in the dead of winter. Now, I am living in your hometown, where tagging is rampant. In fact, my neighbor, directly across the street from me, has had her home tagged with gang signs. Hmmm, are you sure it isn't happening? I am certain it is happening in the Azalea district...and I don't mean north of Houston or west of Chilton.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm sure Tylerites in the Azalea District are all experts on gang signs, so I definitely believe you, 5:55. Even so, were they caught in the act? If not, what's your option but rapid cleanup? Instead, most cities pour money into law enforcement non-solutions and pretend it's enough to seek maximum penalties (at $98K per year for juveniles) for the one in a thousand incidents where they catch someone. Your neighbor would be better off if the $98K were spent cleaning up graff, except most places would rather fine the homeowner if THEY don't clean it up. More revenue, after all.

Law Applies said...

Before I say something nasty, would you please send me to a more moderate and conservative website in which the focus is on crime prevention as opposed to your obvious anarchy way of thinking?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:20 - Who forced you to come here, or forbid you to say what you like? Suit yourself, but if you don't like what you find here, don't visit. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

Great Grits...those TYCer's hate you for exposing their failed policies and telling the truth, but everyone else admires you.

John_David_Galt said...

Graffiti does need to be stopped, but it seems to me it's a great opportunity to make the punishment fit the crime. Instead of putting these teenage wannabe-thugs in jail, let's draft them to spend every weekend for the next year on "chain gangs" scrubbing off graffiti and cleaning up and repainting affected property to look like it never happened.

Anonymous said...

Not related.....but how is TYC going to cut another 10% of their budget, as instructed? Another facility closure?

Anonymous said...

Associated Press


Texas Republican leaders are asking state agencies to find more savings to prepare for a budget shortfall of up to $18 billion.

The request Friday for agencies to lower their future state funding requests by 10 percent comes on top of an earlier plea to cut 5 percent out of their existing budgets.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus said Friday they want agencies, with some exceptions for critical programs, to lower what they will ask for in the 2012-2013 budget.

Officials say the funding requests are due by Aug. 30. The shortfall will top the agenda when legislators reconvene in January

Anonymous said...

TYC can stand to lose several more facilities and still be able to abuse kids as needed. Get rid of the pussy filled agency.