Anti-graffiti proposal would make tagging crime, require cleanup

City officials: Graffiti is sign of lawlessness

INDIANAPOLIS - A new measure has been proposed in Indianapolis to stop the spread of graffiti and make it a crime, which would mean taggers could be held legally accountable.

The proposed ordinance is the first of its kind and makes a serious attempt to rid the city of what is art to some, but vandalism to others.

City officials called graffiti a symbol of disorder and lawlessness, one that contributes to a spiral of urban blight that decreases the viability of businesses and tax revenues.

"It's a pretty big problem. We try to cover it up. And every time we do, they come back and paint more of it. We want to paint the building. But, we're afraid to get it painted and have the graffiti show right back up," businessman Marty Johnson said.

The anti-graffiti measure would give city agencies a wide variety of enforcement tools to protect public and private property from acts of vandalism and defacement.

First and foremost, it would make tagging a crime and the Department of Public Safety has vowed to assign a full-time investigator to arrest offenders.

"We need to photograph it, treat it as evidence and work those cases. At the end of the day, they need to be held accountable. And if they're a juvenile, then parents need to be held accountable as well," said Directory of Public Safety Troy Riggs.

The anti-graffiti initiative would require the Department of Code Enforcement to inspect each complaint, assign a case number and issue a notice of violation to the property owner.

"What this does, it defines graffiti, sets up a system for removing it and it sets up a system to abate the graffiti and clean the graffiti up," said Councilman Jeff Miller.

The ordinance requires property owners to clean up graffiti within 30 days, but it also recognizes property owners as victims.

The city has partnered with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and more than 700 block clubs to help abate graffiti for victims who can't afford it.

"If you have a beautiful tree and right behind that tree, you have some language on a building, that's not art, that's graffiti. It takes away from the experience of the quality of life of this community. So removing it is important to us," said Joseph Jarzen with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.

The proposal will likely be amended to prohibit the sale of aerosol spray paints and wide-tipped markers to anyone under the age of 18.

The measure will go to the council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee.

Follow Jack Rinehart on Twitter: @jackrinehart6

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