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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Zero Tolerance for Graffiti in Santee

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The city of Santee is doing its best to deter and penalize those who make a sport of defacing property.
The city has a track record of prosecuting vandals regardless of the size or frequency of their illegal graffiti.  One teenager was recently prosecuted for defacing a picnic table at a city park with a marking pen.  The damage was only $25, but the youth paid a fine and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service. Three years ago, a prolific graffiti tagger was arrested, convicted and ordered to repay the city $20,000 in restitution.
“It doesn’t make a difference how big or small it is, graffiti is graffiti,” said Community Service Director Bill Maertz. “If you deface public property, we’ll find you and you’ll pay.”

For the past five years, Santee has participated in the regional Graffiti Tracker program, a sophisticated, web-based graffiti reporting system that creates a data base that allows crime analysts to identify each tagger’s graphic signature.  Taggers are actually providing new evidence against themselves each time they leave their mark.
The city’s Public Services staff moves quickly – usually within 24 hours—to erase graffiti after it is reported on the city’s graffiti hotline or on the city’s smartphone app.

“We utilize the ‘broken window’ theory,” said Sgt. Kelly Moody, referring to the criminology theory that responding quickly to vandalism or dumping when the damage is small prevents similar crimes from proliferating. 
“As soon as we identify (graffiti), we immediately try to take care of the problem so it doesn’t get worse,” said Moody, who heads the Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving Team at the Sheriff’s Dept. Santee Station.

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