You Reap What You Sow

For this week’s blog I’d fully intended to do a follow-up on last week’s blog about ‘bad cops’.  However, this morning I read an article in the paper that irritated me to no end.  So, the follow-up will have to wait.

What’s got me so worked up?  A story in a local paper about a 34 year-old graffiti vandal whose name, graffiti moniker, and tagging crew I will not mention in this blog.  The gist of the story is that ‘this guy’ started vandalizing property not belonging to him at the age of 13.  Even though he was arrested several times over the years he couldn’t stop tagging.  That is until 2007 when he was charged with three felony counts of vandalism, to which he plead no contest.  He was sentenced to probation, community service and ordered to pay $28,000 in restitution – of which he’s paid $5,000.  Notice there was no jail time as a consequence of his actions.

He stopped vandalizing/tagging cold-turkey because he was ‘living in fear and paranoia’.  I’m not sure what he was afraid of – he was a criminal for 17 years before anything of consequence happened to him…and, according to the story, he didn’t even go to jail – at least not until 2009…for THREE days.

So, ‘this guy’ directed his creative impulses into legitimate art and has sold some of his works in galleries in California, Philadelphia, Berlin and Romania.  Not only that, he landed a commission to paint a mural at a South Los Angeles high school.  Because ‘this guy’s’ tagging moniker (name) is so well known, there are people in the world who will PAY for his legitimate art.

Lest you think ‘this guy’ is getting rich off all his legitimate art, he says it isn’t so.  He has to take up work as a movie extra in order to get by and…pay his restitution.

You’re probably thinking that $28,000 is a lot of money to have to pay for using markers or spray paint on a block wall or bus bench.  Well, the tagging crew this guy supposedly belonged to graffiti’d a quarter-mile stretch of a concrete river embankment with letters that were 57’ high.  Cost to the City of Los Angeles to clean it up?  $3.7 MILLION!  (It was this case that landed ‘this guy’ in jail for three days in 2009)

The real story in today’s article is the fact that the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has filed a lawsuit against ‘this guy’ and nine other members of his tagging crew, charging them with unfair competition laws because they’re selling art works on the strength of their outlaw names and reputations. If you want to know more about this aspect of the story, I suggest you look it up.  I’ll give you info below.

But what gets me is, the article talks about the fact that ‘urban art’ is gaining mainstream acceptance and the market for this stuff is growing by leaps and bounds.  As a former cop, the folks I talked to who’d had their private property vandalized weren’t very accepting of graffiti or urban art.

I can tell you graffiti is an insidious blight on society and that taggers are very hard to catch.  Even when they are apprehended, the sentences they receive are laughable.  The damage they cause runs in the millions.  Until the courts start taking this crime seriously and impose some serious sentences we’re not going to see anything change.

What really got me more than anything about this article was the last sentence.  ‘This guy’ said he’s paying his debt and want to be left in peace.  Well, guess what you goof-ball?  The people whose property you destroyed and had to pay for the damages you caused during your 17-year crime spree wanted to be left in peace too.  I’ve got no sympathy for you…because you reap what you sow.

If you want to read the complete article, copy and paste this link:

Until next time,


27 thoughts on “You Reap What You Sow

  1. I love the You Reap What You Sow title and theme. I’m a serious post-modern Christian. I live in a culturally relevant world and I KNOW first hand what others have to pay when an individual decides to sow mayhem.

    I want to see the society shift back toward individual responsibility. The only way to do that is to have people speak up, to have articles like this one.

  2. Amen!

    As a former resident of The Valley, I found my garage door tagged several times. I called the police, who told me that the kids just wanted to see their art (on a double garage door that belonged to ME) displayed somewhere and advised me to leave it in place.

    Right. And give the “artists” permission to do more of it, and maybe break into some houses and cars? Great idea.

    We painted that garage door several times, but eventually the little turds got the message and quit “tagging” in our alleyway. We also painted the telephone exchange box a couple of times. It was a lot of fun to watch the taggers drive by and stare at the place where their “art” was NOT.

    And now the privileged denizens of high-rise condos, whose doormen and elevators keep them from having to interface with the little creeps, are paying big bucks for felon “art.” My guess is that the LA Times is drooling on itself to point out how talented these “artists” are. The Times loves outlaws and hates ordinary folks.

    I won’t comment on the news that the city of LA paid $3.7 million dollars to clear up a quarter-mile of vandalism except to say that they might have overpaid just a mite.

    Stuff like this–and worse–will continue to escalate until LA ponies up the dough to hire enough cops and then has a stern chat with the judges who sentence criminals far too lightly.

  3. What I don’t understand is why this shocks you or even ticks you off. We’ve been moving toward an anarchy model in the USA for decades. We’ve become a nation of men, not a nation of laws. We pick and choose which laws are convenient to follow and leave the rest. e.g. sanctuary cities promoting illegal immigration; the federal government, through the ATF, deliberately sending weapons to Mexico so it can make a case for curtailing gun ownership rights here in the USA; expanding executive powers to usurp congressional power; state legislators running away from a state rather than voting on a controversial measure; pushing jury nullification in certain cases — it’s all part of the same hideous movie. The only thing that surprises me is that people continue to be surprised when something else like this shakes out.

  4. Hmm…. I didn’t read the article, but I think I’ve heard of this guy. He apparently has been successful in establishing his “brand” (at other people’s expense). Then again, a lot of people love a maverick.

    Nice that he’s now off the streets, so to speak, and focused on using his talent to create legitimate art. Can’t fault people for paying for his work; it’s their money. However, that doesn’t excuse the damage this tagger has done to other people’s property during the past 17 years. Maybe the people whose property he defaced should sue him.

  5. Yes, it is disgraceful to reward lawbreakers. But this is not unusual. The same thing happened to Basquiat – a street-person, a tagger who was pulled into the legitimate art world by Andy Warhol, then died a few years later from a heroine overdose. Check out his website and you will see graffiti

  6. Hi Nike!


    The key word is ‘responsibility’. I’m not sure when it became okay for people to stop taking responsibility for their actions.

    Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment.

  7. I remember when the story broke about this arrest, and the clean up cost. At the time I wondered why it cost so much to paint over at most – a couple hundred dollars worth of paint – probably stolen for the purpose of that art project. Boggles the mind. My opinion – if it was truly art, they wouldn’t have to paint it in the dead of night on other people’s property without the property owners consent. Get a real job and buy some canvas and paint. If you can sell it then, more power to you.
    Roz Lee

  8. Hi Texanne!


    I’m very surprised the officers told you to leave the graffiti in place. You did exactly the right thing by removing it…the quicker the better. As you rightly deduced, if you keep taking down their tags right away, they get bored and find some other location where the residents aren’t as vigilant.

    Yeah, I thought the $3.7 price tag was high as well, but even if it was only a quarter of that, the point is that graffiti is not a ‘juvenile prank’. There are still a lot of people out there who believe it is.

    I’m never against hiring cops :-) …but, I have to say, that tagging is a really tough crime to stop. It can take a tagger less than 30 seconds to get their tag up. By the time someone calls the cops and we arrive the suspect is long gone. Occasionally we get lucky and actually catch them doing it.

    I’ve never understood why the judicial system can’t/won’t ‘throw the book at’ crooks. I know some of the reasons, but…that’s a whole other blog!

    Thanks you for your comments. Please come again.

  9. I’m not surprized either. I’m still waiting for “people to reep what the sow”. Did you know a murder was committed in Las Vegas and the killer only got 5 years probation? Because the judge said the killer didn’t “have a violent” history. Hmmm, how many people in Vegas do you have to kill to get jail time I wonder? Oh and the restitution for that life was 3500.00. Which 3000 remains after half the probation is gone. I should know because the person murdered was my brother.

    Still waiting on justice.

  10. Hi Rudy!

    Welcome back!

    I’m not shocked. I’m mad – AND I’m no longer tied by the political correctness of my former department, so I can voice my anger and disgust.

    I recognize this is just a small slice of societal dysfunction. I suspect many of the readers of my blog who live in less crime-tolerant locations might be shocked by the attitudes of ‘west coast criminals’. Then again, this is Lala land. Maybe not.

    Thanks for coming by and speaking your mind.

  11. Yup, the steam is coming out of my ears, too! Your “goof ball” term was much kinder than mine.
    “Urban art” is one thing on a canvas – put it on my wall or my city’s wall and it is low down graffiti, and you’re right Kathy, the penalty should be more than it is. Boo hoo – “goof ball” can’t pay back his restitution. boo hoo. Sell some more urban art to Romania. If he’s got talent, he’ll find customers. He needs to pay back what he owes and be grateful it isn’t more.

    L.A. City needs to get tougher – goof balls!

  12. Hi Judith Anne!


    You would be amazed at the number of people who don’t report a crime, so getting having them spend money on a lawsuit would be like pulling teeth. Besides, it would be an extremely hard case to prove unless he admitted he’d done particular tags.

    He can be labeled a maverick, an artist, or an opera singer. But what he is, is a felony criminal.

    Thank you for stopping by and taking the time comment. I appreciate it! Please come again.

  13. Hi PCH!


    Ha! I’ve seen enough graffiti in my career without going in search of it ;-)

    I understand I don’t have to like everyone’s artistic endeavors. However, when they’re breaking the law on someone else’s property that’s another thing entirely.

    As for the fact ‘this guy’ has gone legit by painting the same garbage on items he owns, more power to him. I DO wonder about the folks buying items represented in the photo that was with the article.

    Thank you coming by and leaving a comment. I hope to ‘see’ you again.

  14. Hi Roz!

    Welcome back!

    You make a good point about the ‘art supplies’. Often taggers shoplift their paint, markers and etching tools. Another cost passed on to the rest of society.

    I’m wondering if special equipment was needed to paint over such a large part of a concrete river embankment? I agree, it’s a lot of money. Maybe ‘that guy’ should have to pay the $3.7 million as restitution instead of the $28,000. Just a thought…

    Thanks for coming by, and as always, your comments are most appreciated.

  15. Hi Carolyn!


    I’m so sorry for your loss, and the circumstances are unbelievable! Wow! Five years probation for murder? Yikes.

    This doesn’t happen often…but I don’t know what to say. Unbelievable.

    Thank you for coming by and leaving such an eye-opening comment. Wow…

  16. Hi Janet M!


    Ha ha! I can’t tell you how many times I changed that word ‘goof-ball’ for other possibilities. When I went to bed (at 2:00 a.m.), I actually worried that ‘goof-ball’ might set some people off. I’ve had people upset for far less.

    Then I remembered; I was no longer constricted by the possibility of causing unfavorable attention to my former employer.

    I’m with you. I think ‘that guy’ should sell his ‘art’ for big bucks or produce a whole heck of a lot more to pay his debt to society.

    Thanks for coming by and sharing your sympathy about poor, poor, ‘that guy’. Please come again!

  17. It seems awfully strange to encourage bad behavior that’s harmful to people and their property by turning the perpetrators into celebrities and possible media darlings–but that seems to happen a lot these days.

  18. Hi Linda!


    Well, you know…everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame ;-)

    Unfortunately, it seems to me, the courts encourage bad/criminal behavior all the time. If there are no (or minor) consequences to a crime, there is no deterrent for others not to commit the same act.

    It’s all about responsibility for your actions.

    Thank you for coming by and commenting, Linda. Please stop by again.

  19. Kathy, you probably don’t remember but a few years ago I took one of you classes and asked you to explain tagging which at the time I knew nothing about. I’ve learned more about it since but I have to say this takes the cake. I had no idea the cost involved in this type of crime…and yes I definitely consider this a crime.

    Thanks for adding to my education.

    I was the other Pat in that class.

  20. Kathy did classes? Do you still do any?

    Yeah, responsibility: what a concept. Don’t get me started on the drivers who blow through red lights, as if whatever they’re doing is so much more important than following traffic rules that exist *for a reason*.

    Thought provoking post, Kathy. Thanks!

  21. While I understand the frustration of victims of graffiti crimes, I am going to go out on a limb here and disagree with the solutions some have proposed here. I am sure that Kathy has way more experience dealing with criminals, so I’ll just speak from my own experience, and from what I’ve studied in University.

    Most of these kids are growing up with a shocking lack of resources. A commenter here suggested they buy canvas and paint if they wanted to express themselves artistically, which is a fair point, but an unrealistic solution for kids who can’t afford to buy breakfast. It’s not just graffiti, take a look at the rest of the art that comes from urban, low-resource environments: you’ve got hip-hop, rap, breakdancing…. each one of these artforms was developed because they could be conducted WITHOUT RESOURCES. You don’t need a violin and a music teacher and sheet music to rap; you just need your voice, the time, and the talent. You don’t need special shoes, a studio, mirror, leotard, and teacher to break-dance; you just need open space and maybe some cardboard. And you don’t need canvas, paintbrushes, art books, and instructors to graffiti; you just need a can of spraypaint and an available surface. Combine the lack of resources with a lack of a sense of ownership for their community (they have very little to control about their lives, their environment, their circumstances, ANYTHING), and you’ve got a recipe for graffiti that won’t be resolved by increasing jail time for offenders.

    A better solution, in my opinion, would be to give these kids better resources. The gang issues (and with that, the need to establish dominance, the need to “mark” their territory, the need to have that sense of belonging and sense of importance) are one of your biggest triggers for the “tagging” issue. And the other type of graffiti, the graffiti art, could be reduced if these kids had an opportunity to express themselves artistically in another way. (I think we all know that when school funding is cut, the FIRST thing to go is music and art… well, this is the repurcussion of that).

    Even designated Graffiti Walls (like the one on Venice Beach) might be a better stop-gap solution than more jail time.

    Anyway……… that’s my two cents.

  22. Hi Other Pat!

    Welcome back! I sort of remembered you were a student in one of my classes, but didn’t realize it was the one with Pat B.

    Anyway, you wouldn’t believe how much it costs to remove graffiti – although I just had lunch with a friend who told my why this particular clean-up was so expensive. The City of L.A. opted to have the paint sandblasted off, then needed Haz Mat crews and equipment to keep the paint out of the L.A. River.

    Okay, I know you are all going to start screaming about the thought process in how to deal with the massive tag. Don’t kill the messenger! It wouldn’t have been my first choice either, and I’m sure there is a story to go along with the reasoning behind the decision. I just don’t want to go there.

    A lot of people few tagging as a ‘rite of passage’ for early teens, and/or a ‘harmless prank’. It’s not.

  23. Oh, Other Pat…

    Thank you for your comments and it was good to ‘see’ you again.

  24. Hi Marcia K.!


    Yes, I do classes. Check out the ‘court book’ section of my website. I’m teaching an online class, A Cop’s Life A – Z in September.

    Oh, bad drivers are a blog post unto themselves!

    Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment. Please come by again…and maybe I’ll see you in one of my classes.

  25. Hi Anonymous!

    Welcome! And thank you for being brave enough to post a different point of view.

    I understand what you’re saying, and I’m sure there are some children who don’t have the resources that other kids might have. I don’t have a problem with those kids expressing themselves. However, they don’t have the right to express themselves on property that doesn’t belong to them.

    If they don’t have money for breakfast, where are they getting money for spray paint, markers, and etching tools? A LOT of the time, those items are being stolen from stores. The cost of those stolen graffiti supplies are then passed on to me, the consumer – someone who doesn’t like or want graffiti at all.

    When it comes to having control over their environment and their circumstances, how is tagging going to help either one of those things?

    While less fortunate children are a part of the graffiti equation, they are not the ONLY part. Not all graffiti is gang related. There are many organized tagging crews who come from affluent neighborhoods…driving around in high-end cars to find good tagging spots.

    These crews are sophisticated, prolific, and cause much damage. Occasionally, tagging crews are competing with one another and this fact can lead to violence.

    Punishment for a crime should be just that – punishment. I don’t call three days in jail, and $28,000 in fines for 17 years worth of vandalism damage punishment.

    Thank you for visiting and taking the time to write. You’ve presented a different view for this ‘hot’ topic which makes for an interesting blog. Please come again.

Comments are closed.