Time to get tough on graffiti offenders
Police arrested five people this week and charged them with criminal property damage for spraying graffiti.
POLICE say they caught three graffiti perpetrators
red-handed and two others fleeing from another spray-painting scene this week in response to the growing problem on Oahu. If convicted, the defendants should receive more than a slap on their mischievous wrists to send a message to others creating a blight on the island's buildings and freeway walls.
The Honolulu Police Department has created a Graffiti Task Force to combat the freelance painting that costs thousands of dollars to remove or cover up. Community associations should be encouraged to collaborate in the effort, as the Waikele Community Association began to do last year.
On Tuesday, police said they received an anonymous tip that led to the apprehension of three young men spraying graffiti on a drainage canal in Kalihi. They were charged with fourth-degree criminal property damage.
Early the next morning, a 23-year-old North Carolina woman and an 18-year-old Florida man were caught running from a defaced wall above the H-1 freeway below Punchbowl. Police first charged them with a Class C felony for criminal property damage, but lowered it to a misdemeanor when the damage was estimated at less than $1,500.
Penalties for criminal property damage range from a month in jail and a $500 fine to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for damage exceeding $20,000.
In this year's Legislature, a House-passed bill that would have required offenders to pay the actual cost of removing or covering their rogue artistry died in the Senate. Bills that would have doubled the $1,000 civil fine that counties can impose and make the criminal fines mandatory were ignored.
Efforts to penalize the painters need to be pursued not only on the streets but in court. If judges trivialize the offense as playful mischief, legislators should seriously consider mandatory penalties.
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