SANTA ANA : Graffiti Paint Law Passes First Hurdle

Responding to a recent surge in graffiti vandalism citywide, the City Council has given preliminary approval to a law that would require stores to restrict public access to aerosol spray paints and wide-tipped permanent marker pens favored by "taggers."

The council voted unanimously on Monday to approve the ordinance as well as a resolution authorizing the city to post $500 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of graffiti vandals.

The law would take effect 30 days after April 5, when the council is scheduled to formally pass the ordinance on second reading.

It is now illegal to sell aerosol spray paint to minors, but a report to the council indicates that gang members and youthful "taggers" often steal the supplies they want.

With the city already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on graffiti removal, the new ordinance is aimed at stopping taggers at the source. The law would require stores that sell aerosol spray cans and wide-tipped marker pens to restrict the public's access to them so that anyone who wanted to buy such supplies would have to first ask a clerk.

The city has added permanent marker pens with tips more than four millimeters wide to the ordinance because they are increasingly favored by vandals.

Police Chief Paul M. Walters told the council before the vote that the ordinance and reward resolution would help discourage graffiti vandalism which, he said, "has been a tremendous problem for us. It needs to be treated as a very serious crime."

City Atty. Edward J. Cooper noted that an identical law passed by another city was recently upheld by the California Supreme Court. "We already know it's legal," he said.

Councilman Robert L. Richardson suggested that other cities countywide adopt similar laws to ensure that vandals do not simply circumvent measures that target them by going to an area that has no such restrictions.

Still, Richardson said, "I think this is all a real good start."

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