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Friday, November 2, 2012

City Attorney Press Contact: (510) 238-3148
City Councilmember Press Contact: (510) 238-7003

City Attorney Barbara Parker and Councilmember Nancy Nadel propose ordinance to enhance penalties for graffiti
Law would help businesses that are repeat targets for vandalism

OAKLAND, CA – City Attorney Barbara Parker and City Councilmember Nancy Nadel proposed an ordinance Thursday to set up a comprehensive Graffiti Enforcement Program for Oakland, including enhanced penalties for perpetrators and a fund to help businesses that are repeated targets of graffiti.

The ordinance – scheduled for consideration at the City Council’s November 27 Public Works Committee – would strengthen the City’s response to graffiti vandalism, a severe problem for residents and a costly nuisance for businesses in some areas of Oakland.

“Not only does graffiti take away from the livability and beauty of our City – it also has a chilling effect on our neighborhoods, and can encourage more serious blight and crime,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said.

“Graffiti is costing building owners and those forced to look at it money and peace of mind,” Councilmember Nadel said. “This ordinance takes a comprehensive approach to provide the city with better tools to eliminate the blight and disrespect that graffiti represents.”

Currently, the Municipal Code only includes a prohibition against the sale of graffiti tools to minors and abatement procedures for vandalized properties – it surprisingly does not include penalties against vandals or other remedies available under state law. The ordinance submitted by Parker and Nadel will revise the City’s Municipal Code (Chapter 8.10) to include the following:

  • Enhances penalties for persons applying graffiti including citations, civil penalties, treble damages and punitive damages
  • Parents of an underage graffiti violator can be liable for the minor’s graffiti
  • Permits the City Council to set up a fund for businesses and people who have been victimized multiple times, provided the victim has taken affirmative steps to reduce the likelihood of graffiti
  • Requires businesses or property owners with graffiti on their property to remove it 10 days after notice
  • Adopts state law allowing the City to lien the property of graffiti offenders after a criminal conviction
  • Permits the City Council to provide rewards for identification of graffiti violators
  • Permits recovery of the City’s and victim’s costs from the perpetrator, including costs of investigation and attorney’s fees
  • Merchant associations or Business Improvement Districts can recover their costs
  • Retains existing prohibition on sale of graffiti tools to minors
  • Classifies graffiti as a public nuisance
  • Makes graffiti a misdemeanor, rather than an infraction
  • And allows for use of restorative justice in lieu of penalties

“Property owners and businesses are tired of paying to clean up graffiti, and then having to pay again the next month or the next week or the next day,” Parker said. “Oakland is struggling to recover economically, and pervasive vandalism only slows down our recovery by discouraging businesses to open or remain in Oakland. This ordinance will create Oakland’s first comprehensive program to deter vandals and help victims.”