New law would force taggers to clean up after themselves

San Francisco will establish a pilot program that will require graffiti offenders to clean up graffiti — even if they settle their case out of court — under a new state law.

Many offenders are escaping misdemeanor vandalism charges by settling cases outside of court and agreeing to pay a property owner the costs of removing the graffiti, without ever appearing before a judge or performing any graffiti cleanup, according to the office of Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, who authored the legislation.

The City of San Francisco spends more than $20 million annually to clean up graffiti, according to Ma’s office.

“The signing of this law is a win for San Francisco neighborhoods,” said Ma in a press statement. “Graffiti is blighting bus stops, Muni, store fronts, and other properties across The City.”

The former San Francisco supervisor added that she hopes the law — which was signed into effect by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday, will prove to be a success in San Francisco and then replicated statewide.

The San Francisco Graffiti Advisory Board and the California Business Properties Association co-sponsored the bill, which received unanimous bipartisan support throughout the legislative process.

“AB 1767 is a very important bill that will reduce graffiti vandalism in San Francisco,” said SFPD Officer Chris Putz, who helped draft the legislation as a graffiti-abatement officer with the department. “This bill is a victory for every taxpayer and business owner who has been victimized by graffiti vandalism in The City.”

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“This is not a new model; this is something that’s been utilized around the country.”