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Jail Time, License Suspension Proposed To Tackle Texas Graffiti
A scared straight method for battling graffiti in the Lone Star State: that could be the case if one Texas state representative gets his way. Austin alone sets aside more than half a million dollars a year in taxpayer money to clean it up.
Murals and art go hand in hand with Burnet Road, but in the last year, some have literally been taken over.
"First thing I see as soon as I drive up, 'I'm like you gotta be kidding me,'" recalls Ben Flores, Director of Facility at RedBlack Gym. His business has been vandalized three times.
"We just keep the paint on hand," Flores says, to make it easier for cleanup crews he calls. "I think we're one of the fortunates out of the group so far."
Austin Simply Fit, a nearby gym, is about to shell out $1,000 for a new mural after the old one was vandalized.
"Why come ruin it?" said Krista Bergeron, Manager at Austin Simply Fit. "The problem is you always have that worry that you're gonna pay and then someone's gonna think it's funny to come and do it over again."
Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) says enough is enough. If passed, his House Bill 36 would increase graffiti from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor, doubling the maximum fine and jail time to $4,000 and a year, respectively. It would also make it a state jail felony to spray certain buildings like school and government buildings. Rep. Menendez says he wants to require jail time for graffiti.
"I'm sure it would probably help," said Bergeron.
"I think that's pretty harsh," said Flores. "But I don't know how else you send a message."
Under the proposed bill, a conviction would also mean no drivers license for two years.
"That's probably a good start," said Flores. "I don't know what the next step would be after that."
Rep. Menendez says restitution payments are already in the books, but it's up to the judge to order the parents to pay up.
"They (vandals) should have to pay it back if they're caught," said Bergeron.
Still, Rep. Menendez agrees with the business owners in that catching the vandals is the hardest part, no matter what law is on the books.
If approved, HB 36 would take effect in September 2013.
If your property gets hit with graffiti in Austin, you can call 3-1-1 to have the city clean it up.
By Adam Bennett