Council committee advances graffiti ordinance


A controversial plan to curb graffiti was advanced by a City-County Council committee Tuesday evening.

The Rules and Public Policy committee is expected to vote on a new ordinance that would require the victim - the property owner who's been tagged - to clean up the graffiti or face a $50 fine.

Democrat Zach Adamson, who's co-sponsoring the proposal with Republican Jeff Miller, said it's no different than other acts of vandalism that effect the property owner.

"If someone dumps a pile of garbage on the front lawn, it's not the city's job to come and remove it. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it's the property owner who has the responsibility to remove it," Adamson said.

He noted that Keep Indianapolis Beautiful will help with abatement, by providing paint and brush and even doing the work if the person is unable to do it.

Chris Staab lives in an east-side neighborhood where just about every other garage has been tagged, usually by gang members.

"It's extremely frustrating because it accumulate and accumulates," said Staab.

He said it's not just an eyesore, but seeing gang symbols can be intimidating. He supports a tougher ordinance to curb the problem.

Pointing to a garage covered in graffiti, he said, "If this remains like this, it lowers the apathy in the neighborhood even more. Eventually we get illegal dumping and even more things happen like drugs and prostitution and houses being stripped of all their siding."

But Kevin Koch calls the ordinance unfair. Koch runs his pump and motor business from a large warehouse on South Madison. The front and back of his building is covered with graffiti from the base to the rooftop.

He recently told Eyewitness News, "I can put paint up there, but all it is, is a new canvas for them to put up new stuff. You just can't keep them from doing it."

While it's not part of the current proposal, Adamson said some have suggested making it illegal to sell spray paint to anyone under the age of 18.

"Statistics have found a large portion of graffiti and tagging is committed by minors and it's a policy implemented by other cities as well," said Adamson.

Chicago, LA and New York are among the cities that have such ordinances. Steve Fusek, who owns a hardware store downtown, said he can't remember the last time he sold spray paint to a minor. Still, he said he'd be fine checking ID's or locking up spray paint like he does certain tools.

"It's not a major issue. I think if it cleans up the city, I'm all for it," he said.

Adamson said that's been the sentiment of most retailers he's talked to, but Staab isn't convinced.

"I don't think it will help at all," he said. "We've restricted cigarette sales to those under 18 yet we still see teenage kids walking around smoking cigarettes."

Adamson said assuming the current proposal passes, they'll see how it works before pursuing anything else.

A spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard said he supports the new ordinance as do public safety officials.

The proposal will go before the full City-County Council on July 29.

"This proposal is a great example of bi-partisan teamwork," Adamson said in a release. "It shows what can be done when we work together with one goal in mind."