Graffiti is not a minor crime. It does serious and sometimes irreparable damage, and that destruction can cost property owners thousands, said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence. But its damage isnt limited to the properties it directly affects. The worst part of graffiti is the blight it brings upon neighborhoods. When vandals see graffiti, they know they can get away with tagging there, so they add to it. As the neighborhood starts looking more and more run down, people think it wont make a difference if they add to the mess, so soon youve got more litter and more decaying, neglected property and all that comes with them. If we dont come down on those who damage property with graffiti, we pay dearly through the loss of the quality of life in our neighborhoods.
The legislation (2013-S 0548A), which will now go to the governors desk, eliminates a break in the current law that gives first-time graffiti offenders lesser penalties, instead making them subject to the same fine of up to $1,000 and 200 hours of community service as second-time offenders.
It makes third-time convictions a felony punishable by up to two years in jail, $2,000 in fines and 300 hours of community service. In all cases, it also requires the court to order restitution by the offender for the cost of the damage.
Additionally, if the graffiti is located in a place like an overpass or an underpass where the removal process would disrupt traffic, the bill would allow the court to fine the offender an additional $1,000 to pay for the necessary traffic detail.
The legislation adds new penalties for minors found responsible for graffiti. Under the bill, Family Court could, in addition to the other penalties, hold the childs guardian responsible for restitution of the damage, up to $10,000, and order the Division of Motor Vehicles to suspend the minors drivers license or invalidate his or her learners permit for up to a year. The court would have authority over reinstating the minors license or permit before the suspension is over if he or she has repaired the damage caused or otherwise carried out restitution.
In the fall, Senator Goodwin announced a partnership with Coca Cola Refreshments in Providence to clean up graffiti in and around her district in the Smith Hill neighborhood. Senator Goodwin facilitated the volunteer effort with Coca Cola, which provided paint, machinery and manpower to clean up vandalized sites identified throughout the community. Senator Goodwin also met with Providence Police, who have been working to make more arrests in connection with the vandalism. At that time, she pledged to introduce this legislation to increase penalties for graffiti.
There are a lot of people, myself included, who are sick and tired of our communities being dragged down by graffiti. Its time we put some teeth into this law and send a message that were not going to put up with people making a mess of our neighborhoods, said Senator Goodwin.