Thursday, October 29, 2009

Solving the graffiti problem

The Office of City Attorney has for decades insisted that the U.S. Constitution hinders government efforts to make graffiti vandals account for bad behavior. That explains why City staff tracked 11,500 graffiti crimes during 2008, yet the Office of City Attorney prosecuted only 50. Yes, roughly 4/10 of 1% !!!

Problem is, the U.S. Supreme Court disavowed excuses in 1979 [page 2]. A basic principle of Constitutional law guarantees to government the power to maintain order. The Minnesota Supreme Court concurred in 1993.

The Mayor insists that imposing consequences on graffiti vandals is a "tough issue". Rather than solve the problem, City Hall is advised to use scarce taxpayer dollars to paint over the mischief, ensuring that vandals won't be identified in court.

To curb wasteful spending, the Governor cut state aide to Minneapolis. That put City Hall in a very expensive dilemma. Unrelenting, the council continues to insist that taxpayers spend millions of scarce dollars each year needlessly, cleaning the same do-do repeatedly.

A simple solution

The profile of taggers is 18 to 25, white, male, and from the suburbs. A simple solution for bad behavior does exist. The Berglin graffiti bill allows some graffiti acts to be treated not as a crime but as a civil offense, much like a parking ticket. Such acts are then processed in an informal hearing. Kids appear in Juvenile Court with a parent, where records are never public. Adults appear in a civil proceeding, where records are public. Either way, Restorative Justice programs are an option.


The Berglin graffiti bill arose from the Lyndale Neighborhood Association and was approved by its general membership (23 April 2007). It is condoned by both the U.S. Supreme Court (1970) and the Minnesota Supreme Court (1993). Public debate is recommended by the DFL Ward 10 Convention (16 March 2009).


- Should we issue citations to graffiti vandals and identify them in court? or

- Should we waste another 60 years, spending millions of scarce taxpayer dollars needlessly each year, painting over the graffiti mischief solely to pamper the vandals with immunity?

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