Sunday, June 7, 2009

Letting neighborhoods rot

What follows is a response from the Cooper neighborhood to our request for a public hearing. It proves our point that only a change in City policy will solve the graffiti menace.

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The Longfellow Community Council has taken the anti-graffiti issue into its own hands and with exemplary results. Contact the Anti Graffiti Coordinator, [...] for details on how it's handled.
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Mostly, the response is wishful thinking. According to the Coordinator, the program focuses on murals (funded by tax dollars) but only in business areas, while volunteers paint over the handiwork of vandals elsewhere. There is hope that beauty will encourage friends to snitch on friends.

Question: Why should each neighborhood take "the anti-graffiti issue into its own hands"? Answer: Because graffiti is a game of Hide-n-Seek. Most vandals know how to remain outside the reach of the law. With no accountability for bad behavior, graffiti multiplies. Problem is, City policy guarantees that prosecution for graffiti vandalism is rare. So, neighborhoods must fend for themselves.

The solution is simple: Allow some graffiti acts to be treated not as a crime but as an offense, much like a parking ticket. Then, make those vandals account for bad behavior in an informal hearing. Kids appear in Juvenile Court with a parent, and records are never public. Adults appear in a civil proceeding, where records are public. Either way, Restorative Justice programs are an option.

Cop haters argue that immunity for graffiti vandals is justified because police are prone to harass innocent kids. Truth is quite the reverse. A judge - not a cop - decides guilt, by demanding a high standard of proof from the cops. Keep in mind, no one is above the law.

South Minneapolis is a cesspool of graffiti. Elected officials and wannabes refuse to even consider an open dialogue on how to draw parents into the graffiti solution.

Let neighborhoods rot? Is that our destiny?

The Graffiti Task Force,
Ward 10, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

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