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GARDEN GROVE : Tough Graffiti Law Up for Council Vote

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The City Council will vote Tuesday on a tough new graffiti ordinance that would make it illegal for people to have aerosol spray paint at parks, pools and other public places.

Painting, etching and chalking of both public and private buildings would be prohibited. Parents of juvenile offenders would be responsible for either removing or paying for the removal of graffiti. And there would be cash rewards for people providing information leading to the apprehension of vandals.

The proposed ordinance also would authorize City Manager George Tindall to hire city workers at owners’ expense to remove graffiti if the owners don’t remove it after a certain period of time.

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When graffiti is allowed to remain for long periods of time, it creates the impression that it is sanctioned by the community, Police Chief Stanley L. Knee said.

Knee, whose officers have arrested 82 vandals in stepped-up patrols since November, said the ordinance will enable police “to round the corner” in the battle against graffiti within 60 to 90 days.

Most graffiti vandals are between 13 and 18 years of age and are engaged in tagging competition, rather than gang activity, police said.

Knee said that an onslaught of graffiti in recent months is causing uneasiness in the community and raising residents’ fears that they will become victims of “rowdy intruders.”

Knee said that first-time offenders would be eligible to enroll in a diversion program and be assigned to 32 hours of removing graffiti. They also would pay a $25 fee for an adult supervisor to oversee their efforts. Their parents would be liable for paying restitution up to $200.

Second-time offenders will go to Juvenile Court, he said.

Knee said the proposed ordinance was taken from the best of anti-graffiti laws from several cities and “molded to fit” Garden Grove.

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City Councilman Mark Leyes said last week that he expects the ordinance to encounter no problems with civil liberties issues. “It’s not a constitutional issue to possess a can of spray paint in a public park,” he said.

“This total disregard of the property of others has become an epidemic,” Mayor Frank Kessler said. “If it is not taken care of right away, it will lead to further deterioration (of the community), and we can’t afford to let that happen.”

Because it is an urgency ordinance, the new law will take place immediately if adopted, officials said.

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