Chicago ordinance would increase fine for graffiti writers to $2K

Just like the garbage collection, the city's graffiti removal program is now operating on a grid.

June 19, 2012 2:50:05 PM PDT
A Chicago alderman is leading a graffiti crackdown. He wants to make vandals pay for defacing property around the city.

Tuesday, the city's graffiti cleaners were blasting away, removing what many in the Southwest Side Garfield Ridge neighborhood say is a sign of the times.

"It puts the neighborhood down a little bit," said Lukasz Kupiec. "Kinda scares little kids, especially because there's a lot of schools around here."

Many of these so-called "tags" are the act of gangs marking their territory.

One auto body shop on South Archer has been hit twice in the past month.

"Everywhere you go around here you see graffiti everywhere on the walls, on the restaurants," said auto body shop employee Eidyad Sibetan.

The local alderman sees the writing on the wall and now plans to introduce a new ordinance stiffening penalties for those who spray.

Alderman Michael Zalewski wants offenses handled by the courts rather than by hearing officers.

"Let them sit at 26th and California for a weekend maybe they'll think twice about defacing the community," said Ald. Zalewski, 23rd Ward.

The proposal would more than double the fine for graffiti vandals, from $750 to $2,000, and it would give judges discretion to impose jail time, not just community service.

The action comes after a police memorial near Soldier Field was vandalized over the weekend. It was quickly cleaned up before fallen officers' families gathered for the ceremony on Sunday.

"It's just despicable," said Chicago Police Memorial Foundation Executive Director Phil Cline. "It's just disrespectful for the families. It's disrespectful to the City of Chicago."

Faheem Shabazz is part of the group Chi-Rock Nation, which helps troubled youth through hip-hop culture and legal graffiti, where property owners grant permission.

Shabazz says not all tagging is done by gangs, but also young people yearning for a creative outlet.

"I don't think that fining them is going to be the answer, Shabazz said. "Any time you just impose fines and extreme penalties with no solution, really, I think that's counterproductive."

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