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Tougher graffiti stance triggers worries 

San Luis Obispo County is planning to crack down on graffiti vandals, hard. Actually, harder.

On Jan. 4, SLO County supervisors unanimously approved the introduction of an anti-graffiti ordinance, which is scheduled for a formal public hearing on Jan. 25.

Though the vote was unanimous, not all supervisors were so hot on the ordinance—not because they were pro-graffiti, but rather, some worried the language could re-victimize property owners who’ve been tagged. Supervisor Frank Mecham worried “that if there’s graffiti out there and you don’t remove it, then we’re going to fine you.”

If approved, the new ordinance would build upon existing rules against vandalism, with more severe punishments specifically targeted at graffiti. But it would go beyond punk kids and gang members who tag up store walls. The perpetrators would face misdemeanor charges, have to pay restitution, and work 24 hours of community service. Parents and guardians, too, could be held civilly liable for damages and would also have to be present for half of their kids’ 24 hours of community service.

Under existing codes, property owners can be fined if they don’t remove graffiti 72 hours after being notified by the county. The new language is designed to let people utilize a Sheriff’s Department anti-graffiti paint truck free of charge. But the new proposed rules have some worried it could open the door for the Sheriff’s Department to clean up the graffiti, then charge the property owner if they don’t do it themselves.

County Code Enforcement Supervisor Art Trinidade said the proposed ordinance isn’t designed to punish graffiti victims.

“The county has no intent to victimize the person of vandalism twice,” Trinidade said.

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