Juvenile Taggers’ Parents to Pay the Price

Los Angeles County has had it with taggers.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to approve a measure that will financially impact graffiti vandals and their parents. The measure will allow authorities to hold the kids responsible for the vandalism and their parents liable for civil damages.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the new ordinance is designed to get the attention of parents and guardians who don’t care, are in denial or are unaware of what their kids are doing. By holding the parents responsible for the damage caused by graffiti, the board hopes to send a wake-up call.

Taggers have 30 days to clean up their acts, or they – and their parents – will face the consequences.

This new ordinance is part of a larger effort against urban decay in Los Angeles County. Officials plan to step up law enforcement efforts against graffiti and other forms of vandalism and aggressively prosecute offenders.

Taggers and their parents can expect fines of up to $1,000 and to have liens placed on their property. Under the new measure, authorities will also be able to seek felony vandalism charges against taggers when warranted.

Public records show that the county spent almost $30 million last year to clean up graffiti. After the ordinance goes into effect, the county will no longer pay for the cleanup – the taggers who get caught and their parents will.

County Supervisor Gloria Molina introduced the ordinance. She says that actual property damage to businesses and public buildings is much higher than last year’s $30 million price tag reflects. Molina also believes that tagging leads to violence and more serious crimes and must be stopped.

One high-profile case involving graffiti was the 2006 murder of Robert Whitehead. Whitehead was shot to death after he confronted young gang members that he had caught crossing out another gang’s graffiti on a neighbor’s garage.

Last year, there was another graffiti-related murder in Los Angeles. Grandmother Maria Hicks was killed after she honked her car horn, flashed the headlights and followed a tagger that had vandalized a wall.

These cases prompted Molina to act. She pushed for a six-month pilot program in Pico Rivera and unincorporated areas south and west of Whittier. During the six-month period, 168 arrests were made for vandalism. Of those arrests, 133 were minors. The tagging involved in these cases caused $345,000 in damages.

L.A. County Sheriff’s Capt. Michael J. Rothans said that in 41 percent of the cases involving minors, the families sought help by agreeing to attend parenting or intervention programs. So far, none of the minors have been rearrested.

Since the pilot program was deemed a success, Molin had no problem getting the new ordinance passed. Criminal defense attorneys hope that it will be as great a success and act as a vandalism deterrent or prevent previously convicted taggers from reoffending.