2008-06-18 / Features

Vallone Supports Bill Which Creates New Felony Graffiti Law

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., a staunch foe of graffiti activities, came out last week in support of a bill introduced by Assemblymember Catherine Nolan which would allow prosecutors to charge repeat graffiti offenders with a felony, rather than a misdemeanor.

"Right now, graffiti punks often get caught, get a slap on the wrist, and are out tagging again the next day," said Vallone. "This bill will let us catch someone once and deter them from ever doing graffiti again."

Emphasizing the point, Vallone said, "Get caught once and get away with it, shame on you; get caught twice and get away with it, shame on us."

Vallone (D- Astoria) explained that Nolan's bill would amend the current New York state penal law by replacing the offense of "Making Graffiti" with the offense of "Making Graffiti in the first degree" and "Making Graffiti in the second degree". Making Graffiti in the second degree would be an A misdemeanor, the same as the current law. But someone convicted of the second degree crime on two or more occasions can be charged with the first-degree violation, an E felony.

The new bill would also increase the crime of possession of graffiti instruments from a B to anAmisdemeanor, Vallone added.

Vallone said vandals who commit large amounts of graffiti, or are convicted on three or more occasions, are often charged with criminal mischief in the third degree, an E felony. But, he said it is often difficult to prove that a vandal has caused more than $250 in damages, which is the threshold for the felony crime.

The Nolan bill would make getting a felony conviction for serial graffiti vandals much easier, Vallone said. Moreover, a second conviction of making graffiti in the first degree, a felony, would lead to mandatory state prison time, a strong deterrent, Vallone pointed out.

"We must send the message that graffiti is a serious crime that we are taking very seriously," Vallone stated. "If you keep tagging our streets, you will get tagged with a felony."- John Toscano

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