AUSTIN—State Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) filed House Bill 1440 today, an anti-graffiti measure aimed at discouraging would-be offenders from engaging in vandalism. The bill targets delinquents who choose to “tag” public street signs and increases county funding for graffiti abatement and preventive education by increasing fees paid by adult and juvenile offenders.
“Graffiti is one of the greatest causes of blight in our neighborhoods and cities,” Bohac said. “Not only is it a crime against the property owner who suffers the damage, but it is offensive to all who live in the surrounding community. I have a message for graffiti offenders and taggers who think this is just fun and games: ‘Tag, you’re it’.”
Street and freeway signs are common targets of “taggers”, graffiti vandals who write their nicknames or “tags” so that they will be seen by their peers. Taggers thrive on placing their tag names on as many places as possible to gain notoriety, and they are known to work together with other vandals in tagging crews.
In a direct assault against taggers, House Bill 1440 strengthens the penalties for vandalizing a street sign, freeway sign or any other traffic control device. If a graffiti offense is committed on this type of government property, the offender must pay to replace the sign or the cost of completely restoring it.
For example, if a juvenile goes on a tagging spree and spray paints his or her initials on every stop sign on their neighborhood, they will be ordered to buy new stop signs or pay the cost of erasing their tags if the paint can be removed. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the cost of a neighborhood street sign typically runs between $200 to $350. A large, green overhead freeway sign can cost approximately $1,000.
HB 1440 also increases the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Fee that adult and juvenile offenders are ordered to pay from five dollars to fifty dollars. Also known as the Graffiti Eradication Fee, fines collected are sent to the county to help combat the ill-effects of graffiti through cleanup and prevention programs. HB 1440 specifies that money in this county account may be used to provide printed educational materials to school students to discourage individuals from committing graffiti offenses and inform them of the consequences of their actions.
“House Bill 1440 would give county law enforcement the ability to attack the problem before it starts by launching a public relations war on graffiti in schools,” Bohac said. “Graffiti begins with something as simple as writing on the bathroom wall and grows until it pulls an entire community into the toilet.”
The Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Fund may also be used to repair damage caused by graffiti, provide public rewards for identifying and aiding in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders, and to help pay for the local juvenile probation department.
“The blight caused by graffiti is an eyesore to a community and offenders need to learn the lesson that if you tag it, you buy it,” Bohac concluded. “I hope that young Texans can read the writing on the wall and see graffiti as a serious crime they can’t afford.”