Graffiti Bill Moves to Senate
The fight against graffiti is underway in Asheville. Tuesday, the city put a new plan into action to help businesses.
The city has put aside $300,000 for the project and is signing-up contractors to clean up. State lawmakers are looking into ways to step up penalties for graffiti-related crimes.
The Omnibus Justice Bill addresses a number of issues. But among them is graffiti, and that's a key point in West Asheville. They're happy to see the laws beefed up.
"It's bringing the value of the city down and it's making things look a little bad," says Keith Walker. When Keith Walker moved to West Asheville from Detroit, he knew a big city problem was around the corner.
"A lot of people don't have nothing to do, they're frustrated, a lot of things on their mind and they don't know how to get it out in a productive way," says Walker. Walker understands why graffiti is now the target of of lawmakers in Raleigh. In a neighborhood as tagged as West Asheville, "it's a great idea to make stiffer penalties," says business owner Mike Graham.
Graham's stance is not surprising. According to the Omnibus Bill, a person convicted of a misdemeanor would be fined a minimum of $500, and be required to perform 24 hours of community service. Violators would also be found guilty of a felony if the damage is in excess of $1,000. If a person is convicted of five or more violations within 60 days, those offenses would be punishable as a felony.
Like anything else, if you punish them not severely, then the point gets across," says Graham. He'd like to think things are improving. "I think it goes in spurts, I think it goes on the news and people take care of it for a little bit, and then like any other story it's gone and people forget about it," he says.
But many believe it might take more than tougher laws. Deandre Jackson says breaking the law is exactly what drives the spraying spree. "So they're gonna tag whatever they want because it's against the law," she says.
"The penalty I believe, is they should be the one to erase and clean it off the walls," says Walker. He isn't a lawmaker, just an observer who says he's seen enough. "That's bad that people would do that to people's homes and businesses and buildings," adds Walker.
There's a lot of frustration in West Asheville and now the bill is in the hands of the Senate.