Stop Detroit's graffiti vandals
A few days ago, Mayor Mike Duggan announced a crackdown on illegal graffiti within the city of Detroit. It's the right move and long overdue for Detroit.
Allowing vandals free reign to deface and destroy buildings without punishment has only brought Detroit problems over the past few decades. And unwanted graffiti is definitely not art, as some seem to think.
As the city continues to rebuild post-bankruptcy, it's critical the mayor and police demonstrate that even non-violent offenses, like painting buildings without permission, are taken seriously.
It's high time for the city to improve its reputation and quality of life for residents and businesses.
While Detroit has many violent and serious crimes to pursue on a daily basis, ignoring small crimes such as vandalism has a ripple effect, which leads to more and bigger crimes.
Changing that is a move out of the "broken windows" theory, which former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani employed to successfully and dramatically reduce NYC crime in the 1990s.
Duggan was tough on graffiti vandals as a Wayne County prosecutor, so the new enforcement comes as no surprise.
He says vandals with spray cans will be charged with malicious destruction of property and possibly prosecuted.
Several teen girls from Grosse Pointe Woods who vandalized a downtown property avoided jail time this past summer by agreeing to 60 hours each of community service.
That kind of tough enforcement should continue. With so much potential and rebirth on the horizon, the city can't afford to push graffiti to the side any longer.
Another tenet of Duggan's new plan is to fine the owners of buildings that have unauthorized graffiti.
City inspectors from the Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department are already visiting buildings along some of Detroit's main thoroughfares, including Jefferson, Woodward, Grand River, and Michigan and Gratiot avenues.
Buildings with paintings that the building owners have not approved or commissioned are already being issued tickets.
Graffiti in these cases is not the fault of the building owners, who may or may not have the resources immediately available to pay either a city fine or to have the paintings removed.
What the city and police department should focus on instead is increased patrolling of commonly vandalized areas to prevent the graffiti from appearing in the first place.
The responsibility lies with the city to provide a safe and reputable place for businesses to operate — not with business owners themselves.
Many business owners are already forced to take security extra measures the city should be providing to ensure safety for them and their customers. They don't need onerous city fines on top of that, and fines are certainly no way to attract small businesses and entrepreneurs to Detroit.
A better solution would be to work closely with business owners to prevent and identify vandals if and when they strike.