- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said officials with his administration went too far as part of a new anti-graffiti campaign by issuing tickets to building owners who had murals they commissioned or approved on their walls.

Tickets were issued as the city rolled out a previously unpublicized, more-aggressive effort aimed at cleaning up buildings along several major roadways, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News reported. It’s part of broader work to fight blight in the city.

Duggan on Wednesday blamed problems on a miscommunication among city inspectors and said ticketing of illegal graffiti would continue.

“I felt like I gave explicit directions that wall art and murals done with owners’ permission should not be ticketed,” Duggan said. “We made a mistake. But we also issued a large number of tickets for graffiti that was appropriate.”

Duggan personally apologized to two of those caught up in the effort, the owners of Brooklyn Street Local diner in Corktown and Derek Weaver, founder of the Grand River Creative Corridor, where artists have completed owner-approved murals.

“I told the mayor that if you aren’t careful, and if you come down with iron fists, you’ll force a lot of good artists, entrepreneurs and small business owners out of the city,” said Weaver, who received up to about $8,000 in tickets in recent days.

The effort is focused on Jefferson, Woodward, Grand River, Michigan and Gratiot avenues. Deveri Gifford, co-owner of Brooklyn Street Local, said she was pleased the mayor came to the restaurant to apologize for a $130 ticket. Still, she said, it was all “ridiculous.”

“All the inspector had to do was come and talk to us,” she said.

Duggan said officials held six planning meetings before launching the crackdown. The Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department is responsible for issuing the tickets, and Duggan said the city is reviewing all of the tickets that were issued.

Tickets given for murals that had been approved by business owners are expected to be rescinded while other tickets may stand. Owners are responsible for their buildings in cases where they were targeted by graffiti. If ticketed, they have 14 days to clean up.

Vandals are being charged with malicious destruction of property, with varying penalties. Duggan said more than a dozen have been prosecuted. The crime can be a misdemeanor, punishable by fines or up to 93 days in jail, or a felony with up to 10 years in prison.

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