Looking to intensify the city's fight against blight, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday doubled the reward offered to people who provide information leading to the arrest of a tagger or graffiti vandal.
On a 14-0 vote, the council boosted the reward to $2,000, up from $1,000.
Councilman Paul Krekorian, who pushed for the change, said the existence of a reward lets the public know that they should report graffiti -- either after it's on a wall or while it's being painted.
Graffiti "reduces a neighborhood's sense of community, a neighborhood's sense that they are safe in their community, and that tends to lead to an increase in other types of crime," said Krekorian, who represents part of the east San Fernando Valley.
Over the last four years, the number of graffiti rewards provided by the council has steadily declined. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the city paid out 23 rewards.
That number dropped to seven the next year, and to five the year after that, said Paul Racs, director of the city’s Office of Community Beautification, which oversees graffiti removal. In the fiscal year that ended in June, the city gave out just one reward.
Racs said he does not know the reason for the decrease. But he noted that officials have been hesitant to promote the reward program, out of concern that residents could be shot or beaten up as they attempt to gather information on taggers.
“There’s some concern as to whether the city is liable” if someone gets hurt, he said.
L.A.'s Office of Community Beautification currently spends $7.5 million a year on graffiti removal. During the last fiscal year, those funds paid for the removal of more than 30 million square feet of graffiti at more than 600,000 locations, Racs said.
A year earlier, the city painted over more than 32 million square feet of graffiti.
Krekorian initially proposed a doubling of the city's reward specifically for vandalism of murals. During two years of review, city lawmakers decided to increase the amount for information leading to an arrest in any graffiti incident.
The change was backed by at least three neighborhood councils, two of them in Krekorian's district, according to city documents. Krekorian said he would have preferred a larger reward amount but is also pushing for stiffer city fines in graffiti cases.
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