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.