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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

Taggers clean for years? Sounds fair!

There's an elegant kind of justice that would be meted out with the enactment of a new law on graffiti. In a world where status comes from leaving your mark where it will impress other vandals, someone caught in the act of "tagging" will be stripped of that thrill by cleaning up after themselves.

But the real innovation of House Bill 2129 meaning. the part that piles on the humiliation is this additional and mandatory penalty: Anyone convicted of criminal property damage by marking it up also would be sentenced to cleaning up any graffiti that appears within 100 yards of the original crime scene for up to two years after that.

Ouch. Not a bad deterrent, one the governor should sign into law.

HB 2129 passed above the objections of State Public Defender Jack Tonaki, speaking for his agency, which he said opposed the idea of a defendant essentially ordered to repair damage he or she didn't cause.

But that misses the point that judges already can and do sentence people to community service, which frequently include similar chores, cleaning up someone else's mess. All this bill does is to make cleanup a must, regardless of other penalties the judge might favor.

Property owners would need to sign off on the labor, because they would be liable for any injury. And the public defenders secured another important fix to the bill by deleting the part that would let property owners demand cash reimbursement for repairs instead. That's not fair to people who don't have the means to pay, especially over an extended period.

But anyone who can slather paint or ink on someone else's stuff certainly has the means to cover it up. Why not have them use that talent in a way that costs nothing but sweat? Just desserts, indeed.