Saturday, April 11, 2009

A self-inflicted wound

The graffiti menace in Minneapolis is self-inflicted. For decades, hard data has proven that the City's policy of charging ALL graffiti offenses as a "crime" is a failure. The city sees "more than 175,000 new tags, or graffiti markings, every year."[1] Not just this year, or last, but for several decades. Offenses referred to the City Attorney for prosecution "are just a very small percentage of the total number of incidents of graffiti."[2]

The U.S. Supreme Court offers a solution.[3] Prosecute SOME graffiti offenses in a civil proceeding. Hence, if the charge is not a crime, the rules of proof may be simplified. The Minnesota Supreme Court concurs.[4]

Senator Linda Berglin introduced a bill to eradicate graffiti in Minneaolis.[5] The bill follows the road map crafted by the U.S. Supreme Court - civil proceeding, respect for liberty, high standard of proof, simplified procedure, and due regard for legitimate concerns of the state. It allows a police investigator who is not an eye-witness to present "credible testimony" to identify in an informal hearing who is responsible for the graffiti.

The General Membership of Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA) endorsed unanimously Senator Berglin's efforts to eradicate graffiti in Minneapolis. Nevertheless, the Mayor and Council defy the U.S. Supreme Court. Ditto for House DFLers who represent the Lyndale neighborhood, ignoring grass-roots support for Senator Berglin's graffiti bill.

Why do elected officials cling to a policy that is a proven failure over several decades? When costs to the taxpayers exceed $2.5+ million yearly?[6] When the City and land owners suffer hard financial times? When crime is increasing and streets remain in disrepair?

Elected officials offer no explanation. Instead, the City Attorney is instructed to enforce a policy that allows vandals to inflict damage to property at will. Worse, neighborhood executives, and city employees posing as neighborhood leaders, are offered hush money to distract attention away from a problem that worsens each day. Why?

Senator Berglin's graffiti bill is a no-brainer: Punish vandals, not victims or taxpayers. Making graffiti an expensive habit is the only language that vandals understand.

The Graffiti Task Force
of the Lyndale neighborhood
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

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[1.] Sara Schweid. "Time allowed for graffiti cleanup halved," Minnesota Daily, 24 May 2006, p. 10
[2.] Susan L. Segal, City Attorney. Email to Mayor et al., 11 march 2009.
[3.] Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418, 431, 60 L.Ed.2d 323, 995 S.Ct. 1805 (1979)
[4.] State v. Alpine Air products, 500 N.W.2d 788, 790 (Minn. 1993)
[5.] Originally S.F. 587 (session 2007). Objections of the City Attorney were addressed and incorporated by Senate Counsel into S.F. 3760 (session 2008), which was re-introduced as S.F. 194 (session 2009-2010).
[6.] Tom Horgen. "Leaving their mark across the metro," Star Tribune, 14 Oct. 2006, p. A8

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