New bill puts teeth into law against tagging - Tucson News Now

New bill puts teeth into law against tagging

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Governor Jan Brewer has signed off on a bill that would require people responsible for graffiti to cover the costs of cleaning up the damage.

House Bill 2571, introduced by Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla, D-San Luis would allow the courts to include reasonable labor, material, and equipment costs when calculating the damage resulting from graffiti.

"Graffiti cleanup has been a huge issue in our communities and it has budgetary implications," Escamilla said. "This law would provide a way for cities and towns to not only manage the cleanup but also hold the offenders accountable for the full damage they inflict."

The city of Tucson is paying almost $1 Million a year to abate graffiti.  The city has contracted with Graffiti Protective Coatings who cleans up graffiti from public utility poles, sidewalks, walls, curbs, utility boxes, dumpsters, and signs all over Tucson.  The contract with the company is $720,000 annually.

Staff with GPC said they responded to about 5,000 city graffiti calls a month.

In addition to that The city has it's own in-house graffiti abatement crew. That cost was $199,080, which included the cost of labor and materials.

The city prosecutors office welcomed this new law, saying it would expand the ways a judge could order restitution in cases involving graffiti abatement.      

"We are pleased with what the amendment does for victims of graffiti cases, and for the damages they can claim," said MJ Rachitic, an assistant prosecutor with the city of Tucson.

Rachitic said in majority of the cases suspects had been entered into diversion programs, but they still had to pay restitution.

Lupe Mercado, an area manager with GPC said cleaning up one wall could cost the city or a private citizen $300 in some cases, although they gave the city a volume rate, so that same wall would cost the city $30.

Mercado said an app launched by the city of Tucson that allowed residents to report graffiti was helping prosecutors.

"If they catch someone with a particular tag name or moniker, now we've got pictures and we can look up the tag name, and pull up the history of all the tagging done by that individual in the city."

The new law is expected to go into effect late this summer.

You can read the bill in it's entirety at http://1.usa.gov/1matlpt.

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