Council members push ban on spray-paint sales

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Two D.C. Council members are proposing to ban the sale of spray paint and etching pens to minors in an effort to combat graffiti, a problem that one council member says is out of control and conducive to gang violence.

Council members Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, yesterday introduced the Restricting Minor Access to Graffiti Materials Act of 2003, which would prohibit the sale of all graffiti-making materials to anyone under 18.

“The proposal was an expression of frustration,” Mr. Graham said. “Graffiti is inextricably linked to gang identification and thus gang activities. The bill will place a large obstacle in the path of kids who want to damage and deface property.”

The council members’ proposal comes after the District has seen an increase in gang-related shootings and a proliferation of graffiti in Northwest neighborhoods this past summer. Most scrawlings signify a gang presence, city leaders and activists say.

Mr. Brazil could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, when asked about the proposal at his weekly press briefing yesterday, could not comment.

“I haven’t seen it yet,” he said.

Since he first became mayor in 1999, Mr. Williams has focused mostly on graffiti-cleanup efforts, instead of prevention.

In 1999, Mr. Williams introduced the Anti-Graffiti Amendment Act, which authorizes the mayor to assume financial responsibility for removing graffiti from privately owned property. He purchased two $75,000 power-washing trucks to remove graffiti. The cost of graffiti removal is estimated at $100 an hour, or about $250,000 a year.

The proposed bill is an amendment to the Anti-Intimidation and Defacing of Public or Private Property Criminal Penalty Act of 1982. It would prohibit the sale of graffiti implements to anyone under 18, make the act of graffiti or sale of graffiti materials to a minor punishable by fines, imprisonment or both, and hold parents accountable for graffiti created by their children.

Mr. Graham said there would be exceptions for young people who are accompanied to a store and supervised by a parent, teacher or employer.

Currently, minors who are charged with defacing property face up to 15 days in a juvenile correctional facility, 24 hours of community service, which includes removing the graffiti, and a $1,000 fine in addition to all other penalties and restoration work.

The proposed amendment calls for the fine to be increased to $2,000 and the maximum jail sentence to be extended to 180 days.

Merchants in the District who sell spray paint said yesterday they wouldn’t mind the restrictions.

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