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April 24, 2009

Graffiti as organized crime


Brooklyn Valentine, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

A Texas state legislator wants to treat graffiti-scrawling teens like mobsters, Grits for Breakfast reports:

On the House floor today, Rep. Joe Moody had a perfectly reasonable bill that added people conspiring in prison and jail escapes under the organized crime statute. But the freshman Democrat accepted a "friendly" amendment from Rep. Dwayne Bohac to define graffiti offenses, of all things, as "organized crime" if committed by three or more people in combination.

Bohac said he wants to target criminal street gangs, but as written the amendment would allow prosecution of any three high-school kids who spray paint an underpass as "organized crime," enhancing Class A misdemeanor graffiti offenses to a third degree felony.

Can we declare the knee-jerk law and order trend officially played out now?

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Comments

There is a saying that no politician ever lost an election for being too-tough-on-crime.

But obviously, many politicians deserve to lose for their warped sense of justice.


Just as an aside, that's an awesome picture.

If I didn't actually live here I'd wish these idiots would go ahead and secede.

I'm glad to see somebody else thought that was as nuts as I did.

I swear to God I don't understand why, but ALL our graffiti "enhancements" in Texas (7-8 bills this year, mostly combined into one that's up for a floor vote today) came from otherwise more or less progressive Democrats. In fact, Democrats in TX overwhelmingly sponsor more criminal penalty hikes than Republicans. For reasons that utterly elude me, Ds are where a great deal of the tuff on crime and drug war schtick is coming from, and I wish they'd stop.

The only thing I can figure is that Texas Democrats are like right of center Republicans everywhere else.

In Berkeley if a place is graffitied the city charges $400.00 per day fine until the graffiti is cleaned up. Which in my view is just as dumb as Texas democrats.

What's dumb about it? Private property, or the people's property should not be defaced. Period.

This is astoundingly idiotic, even for Texas. I truly despise legislators who do not know shit about the actual criminal process, yet attempt to enact stupid f'n laws like this and then expect prosecutors to charge these cases. I know I would refuse to prosecute a stupid law like this if the charge came to my courtroom.

Phantom, dude, really? Common sense should tell you this is a bad amendment. There is already a charge for this type of offense in most states. I know there is here in IL.

I referred to what doyle was talking about.

Fines that hurt can get people's attention pretty good.

Got ya. In my experience, that is not the case. I have seen people just commit the same offense over and over despite the fine. They are not deterrants.

Fining a private property owner for graffiti is either blaming the victim or infringing upon their property rights.

The owner of the wall in my photo kept the mural up for several months, I would argue, to the betterment of the neighborhood.

There are lots of privately-owned walls in my neighborhood that serve as canvasses for graffiti artists. The property owners could paint over them, but they choose not to. I don't think the city should force them to repaint if they don't want.

Sometimes failure to remove graffiti is evidence of a general neglect of the property--but only sometimes. I don't think the city should be fining the owners of otherwise well-maintained property (like many of the business owners in my neighborhood) just because they choose to let graffiti stay up on their private property.

Heh, I'd like to see politicians and Wall Street executives go to jail for crimes against humanity. Priorities!

Fines that hurt can get people's attention pretty good.

That's not true. Singapore has fines that hurt about all sorts of activities, from littering to spitting on the street. People still rampantly engage in them, because they know the government has better things to do than to arrest everyone.

In fact, Democrats in TX overwhelmingly sponsor more criminal penalty hikes than Republicans.

Moody is co-sponsor, in fact, of a proposed hike we're very much in favor of: making strangulation in a domestic violence assault into a felony offense (H.B. 2066). I have no explanation for the rest.

I don't think the city should be fining the owners of otherwise well-maintained property (like many of the business owners in my neighborhood) just because they choose to let graffiti stay up on their private property.

The number one owner of such defaced/enhanced property in my neighborhood would be Union Pacific, or possibly CSX. I don't expect anyone in our government to be demanding money or a clean-up from them.

Strangulation isn't already considered a felony in Texas? Wow.

The strangulation bill is a bad bill, too, IMO. Too broad, too low a proof standard, and covers activities that are already a crime.

Alon

I've been to Singapore. The streets are spotless as compared with other major cities.

And I never saw anyone spit. ( compare that to Hong Kong, or Brooklyn )

The laws work- not because of the fear of fines, but because the people support having clean streets.

Singapore is a sterile place, but boy do things work. Got off the plane, took about two minutes to get through passport control. By the time I walked to baggage claim, my bags were already on the carousel. Three minutes later, in a taxi on the way to the hotel.

You'd never go there as a main vacation destination, but if you're on the way to other Asian places, it's not a bad place to spend a couple of days on the way to or from.

Other Asian countries really admire Singapore and have studied it a lot.

There are bad things there ( abuse of libel laws by the government ) but they've created a very good life for their people in a relatively short period of time. Compare to nearby Indonesia and you'll see what I'm talking about.

The strangulation bill is a bad bill, too, IMO. Too broad, too low a proof standard, and covers activities that are already a crime.

A class "A" misdemeanor in many parts of Texas, when its prosecuted at all. We support the bill for two main reasons: strangulation is a very dangerous form of violence in itself, and its one of the best predictors we have for determining whether a particular abuser will turn out to capable of murder. (According to the Chicago Women's Health Study, 12% of surviving strangulation victims end up murdered by their partner, as opposed to 5% of victims of other forms of violence.)

See this and google the above-named study for more.

I've been to Singapore. The streets are spotless as compared with other major cities.

And I never saw anyone spit. ( compare that to Hong Kong, or Brooklyn )

Singapore is clean by the standards of Paris, but not by those of Manhattan. Midtown and Lower Manhattan are as clean as downtown Singapore; Upper Manhattan and Brooklyn are less clean, but so are the neighborhoods in Singapore away from the CBD.

And people do spit, all the time - taxi drivers are known to stop at a red light, open the door, spit on the street, close the door, and drive off.

My observations of the streets of Singapore don't track with what you say. And I went all over that small country. I saw a city / state that was far cleaner than any big US city I've seen.

And I lived there for 5.5 years, and in the last 2 or so I saw a city that pretends to be cleaner than it actually is. At night there are sections of Orchard Road that look as sketchy as any street in Harlem (the actual crime rate is very low by US standards, though not by East Asian ones). The sidewalks, when they exist, are about as littered as the sidewalks of comparable streets in New York - Orchard to 34th, Clementi to Riverside above 125th, etc. The subway system is cleaner, but there it's New York rather than Singapore that's the outlier. In Milan the subway is perfectly clean, without any platform screen doors, or, judging by the ample graffiti outside, enforcement of quality of life crimes.

OK, you got me.

I was only there for a few days, and I didn't happen to see any of that.

That airport is one well-oiled machine, though!

Cass, who is "we" that support the strangulation bill? Do you work for a group or was that a royal "we"?

With respect, the strangulation bill is junk for all the reasons stated above, particularly the redundancy and the proof standard. And you're wrong that it's inherently a Class A - depending on the circumstances, strangulation currently can be a serious felony including aggravated assault. If DAs are not prosecuting the way you want, I promise it's not because Texas' laws aren't plenty tough already. And if it's true DAs are using their discretion not prosecute, as you say, enhancing the penalty won't change that a bit.

I love the majestic sound of that royal "we", and always take advantage of the rare occasions when I can honestly employ it. I work for a sister agency to the Texas Council on Family Violence, which is lobbying for this particular bill. Of course, I didn't say that strangulation was "inherently" a class A misdemeanor anywhere- merely that the public policy team has collected many examples, particularly in our rural counties, where that's the option taken. Much of our state is as enthusiastic about prosecuting domestic abuse as white-on-black violence, and some of us would gladly consider a deal with Satan not to push for any new legislation if we could see what was already on the books enforced. That said, strangulation is extremely dangerous and a good indicator for impending homocide. The speed and low cost with which abusers are so often sprung from jail, combined with the lack of shelter space and other resources (particularly, again, in rural areas) and that bang-up job so often performed by the local cops means that many of my clients view a call to 911 as a likely death sentence on themselves. Somehow, that passion for "law and order" espoused by judges and prosecutors quite often seems to go out the window when rape and domestic abuse is involved. Since its next to impossible in many cases to hold people in the system accountable, we're doing the best we can to address this issue/problem/nightmare from every possible angle.

And now, having gotten all royal, its probably advisable for me to say the views in the preceding posts belong to myself, many of my co-workers and perhaps some nebulously-defined local "domestic violence movement" alone, not to any agency or TCFV. (And again, I'm not an employee of the latter anyway.) If you want to get the Council's take on the bill, Scott, please contact them through the website. I'm sure they'll make some time for a response to your objections.

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