Graffiti is a costly problem for cities, and in Palmdale it has become costly for the parents of taggers.
A program launched this summer that holds parents responsible for the graffiti sprayed by their juvenile children has so far netted the city about $2,100, a small portion of the thousands of dollars it is trying to recover. City officials say it is only the beginning.
Efforts to get restitution from the parents of as many as 35 taggers are under way and if parents will not voluntarily pay the charges, officials said Palmdale will sue them.
Palmdale in July sent out letters to the parents of 10 youngsters--two from the same family and all boys--demanding a total of $8,890 to reimburse the city what it spent cleaning up graffiti the youths were convicted of spraying. The charges also include all or part of the $1,000 rewards the city pays to people who provide information that leads to the conviction of graffiti vandals.
All but one of the families had until Monday to pay the charges, which range from $325 to $1,600. One of the nine letters was sent to the wrong address so that family has until Nov. 5 to pay the money. As of Thursday, just one family had paid the full restitution--$1,500--demanded of it by the city, according to Terry Stubbings, Palmdale’s community relations officer. Another parent has signed a promissory note and agreed to make monthly payments totaling $585.
If payments are not received or other arrangements made with the parents of the other youths, Stubbings said the city in the next several weeks will file suits in small claims court.
Palmdale had to get permission from the Juvenile Court presiding judge to obtain the names and addresses of the nine families from which it is seeking restitution. Stubbings is getting ready to submit another request with the presiding judge for permission to access records of other juveniles who have sprayed graffiti in Palmdale and said as many as 35 families may receive the demand letters by year’s end.
In the last few months, there has been a small decrease in the amount of graffiti that is being sprayed around the city. Stubbings said it is due to the restitution program and other city efforts. The amount of graffiti has declined from an average of about 100,000 square feet per month in the first five months of the year to 85,000 square feet per month in May, June and July. Palmdale spends more than $100,000 annually in its battle against graffiti.
“Frankly, I think this is a tendency that will die out,” Stubbings said of tagging. “It’s a very destructive pastime of today’s youth.”