Graffiti penalty: Clean it up
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer
Anyone convicted of graffiti could be required to clean up other people's tagging for up to two years and within a 100-yard radius of the original site of the graffiti, under a bill passed by state lawmakers.
The measure, approved by a 51-0 vote on Tuesday, is on the governor's desk, awaiting her signature.
The new penalties, if imposed by a judge at sentencing, call for anyone convicted of criminal property damage from graffiti to be required to remove graffiti within 14 days of its appearance within 100 yards of the site of the original graffiti crime.
"I think it's a great bill," said Rep. Henry Aquino, D-35th (Pearl City, Waipahu). "We've been dealing with this particular issue for many years now.
"It sends a clear message of deterrence and accountability. If you break the law, you will invest a lot of time and effort in paying for the crime."
Graffiti crops through communities around the state. After long weekends and short. At schools and on light poles and walls.
Most homeowners and businesses tackle the removal themselves, but in many communities bands of volunteers comb through with paint and paintbrushes to clean it up.
"It's a hot issue," Aquino said.
Harlow Urabe, a Waipahu resident for 40 years, is on a team that goes around painting out graffiti.
"Sometimes graffiti explodes out here," Urabe said. "There has been tons of graffiti and vandalism throughout my community. It's something residents have dealt with. I get really frustrated by seeing what a blight it causes. Businesses, parks, houses, concrete walls all get hit."
Groups make the rounds routinely in Waipahu painting out graffiti, Urabe said. The Waipahu Community Coalition and the U.S. Department of Justice Weed and Seed program leads the effort in the community, he said.
The new bill "hits people who are actually doing the graffiti," Urabe said. "It's actually hitting them where it might hurt. Not just give them a slap on the wrist. By making them paint out other people's graffiti, it's a commitment."
State law already addresses graffiti as criminal property damage and hold parents responsible for minors who are arrested.
People convicted of criminal property damage can be fined as much as $1,500 for conviction. And, in 2003, parents were made liable for cleanup or to pay for the cleanup if their minor child was convicted of graffiti, according to state statutes. Community service also could be levied.