FOUNTAIN VALLEY : Graffiti Law Makes Possession a Crime

The City Council this week toughened its anti-graffiti ordinance, making it a crime to possess in public places during closed hours felt-tip markers, aerosol paint cans or other implements commonly used to deface buildings.

The ordinance revision, approved unanimously Tuesday, also prohibits possession of markers, spray paint, etching tools and other graffiti implements on private property without the owner's consent.

"It makes new crimes out of having graffiti implements for the purpose of defacing property, public or private," said City Atty. Alan R. Burns.

In addition, the revised ordinance asks the courts impose on both juvenile offenders and their parents community service upon sentencing.

"We can't mandate it," Burns said. "It's within the court's discretion. But we would like the parent to be involved."

Because it's difficult to catch culprits, Burns said the city's revised anti-graffiti ordinance gives the Police Department a tool to combat graffiti by "not requiring they catch someone red-handed applying the graffiti to the surface of the structure."

"This gives (police) another way of bringing them to justice," he said.

In related action, the council approved an agreement with the California Department of Transportation for an Adopt-A-Wall program to help remove graffiti from sound walls on the north side of the San Diego Freeway, from Ward Street to Magnolia Avenue.

Donald L. Heinbuch, administrative services manager, said the program won't cost the city any money.

Heinbuch said the city is seeking volunteers to remove graffiti, and Caltrans will supply the paint and rollers as well as safety training.

"This will speed up the time to remove graffiti within our city limits," Heinbuch said.

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