Must Fear Consequences

In an otherwise timely and informative cover story on the scourge of graffiti vandalism that threatens Santa Barbara, I was troubled by Matt Kettmann’s failure to pursue more vigorously this angle:

‘It’s extremely frustrating for us,’ said Detective Andy Feller, who’s in charge of the SBPD’s youth services sector, which covers everything from missing persons to attempted gang homicides. And that’s in part because, as Officer Katsapis explained, ‘There’s a mentality amongst taggers that it’s not vandalism, that it’s art.’ That notion is supported by the popularity of graffiti in mainstream culture as well as the rise of a multimillion-dollar online aerosol-art retail market that’s accessible to anyone with a credit-card number. Altogether, the combination leads to repeat offenses, little fear of the probation, fines, and even jail time that constitutes punishment, and a bravado that’s both dangerous (because they might go to jail) and stupid (because they aren’t afraid to show off). ‘One kid we arrested showed us everywhere he had tagged, said Feller. “It was like 15 locations. He had a sense of pride.’”

Repeat offenses? Little fear of probation, fines, and/or even jail time that constitutes punishment? I would like to see Kettmann follow up this piece and inform his readers as to the facts and statistics regarding graffiti vandalism in Santa Barbara. What is the conviction rate of offenders? How serious is the fine if one is convicted? What are the consequences for repeat offenses?

In short, if the vandals have little or no fear of consequences for defacing public and private property, why should anyone be surprised that graffiti vandalism is alive and well – and growing – in Santa Barbara?

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