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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 21, 2006

Graffiti busters merit city thanks, support

If nothing else, grassroots efforts to battle graffiti through a "quick paintout" strategy ought to convey the message to Honolulu law enforcement and other officials just how seriously residents take the blight that vandals create along our highways and in our neighborhoods.

Waikele Community Association has served in the vanguard of this praiseworthy campaign by launching Taking Action Against Graffiti (TAAG) to mark through the handiwork of "taggers" who deface buildings and other surfaces in plain view.

Teams from Lighthouse Outreach Center and other groups have joined in, too.

The idea is that painting through the graffiti with a zebra-style stripe of paint will discourage taggers who derive their satisfaction from seeing their marks displayed.

But clearly it's only part of the solution. People who take pleasure in visual pollution have got to be shown, in definitive terms, that the rest of us don't appreciate it.

Police Lt. Guy DeMello, one of those on the front lines of the battle in Leeward O'ahu, said mandatory minimum fines and community service would go further as a deterrent than sending vandals to already crowded jails.

He's right. Forcing a tagger to keep his area graffiti-free, especially during the hot days of summer, ought to strip the fun right out of vandalism. And, at the urging of the public, the police have stepped up efforts to arrest more of the taggers, which is encouraging.

The city could establish a hot line and offer coordination help to marshal the forces. This fight will take all the added punch we can muster.