Councilman Weiner's Citizen Anti-Graffiti Brigade and police increased enforcement credited for success against graffiti vandals. - News Journal Editorial by Harry Themal
Harry Themal: “Increased vigilance and enforcement is working in nabbing the graffiti vandals, judging by the number of stories and photos of offenders. Credit the success to the New Castle County Anti-Graffiti Task Force, headed by Elsmere police, and a Citizen Anti-Graffiti Brigade formed by County Councilman Bob Weiner.”
Harry F. Themal
Monday, August 17, 2009
Vigilance nabs repeat offenders
August 17, 2009
Strike forces, task forces, citizen brigades, big and small police forces -- all are proving the value of cooperative and intensive vigilance and enforcement to nab drunken drivers and graffiti vandals who, respectively, threaten our highway safety and our property rights.
What remains unclear is how best to punish repeat offenders who drive drunk for the fifth or sixth time, or boast of their vandalism by repeatedly putting their identifying tags on buildings, railroad cars, bridges and other surfaces.
Our prisons are already overflowing with murderers, robbers, rapists and other violent criminals. Does it make sense to add to these budget-draining costs by imprisoning these offenders?
Let's deal first with those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The strike forces, headed by Newport Police Chief Michael Capriglione, have more than proved their value with their roadblocks. Even if only one of those stopped motorists is kept from driving any farther while under the influence, a life may have been saved. Every checkpoint seems to catch more than a few such drivers. Police also catch persons wanted on warrants and for other crimes.
Those who have been victims or the families of the victims of drunken drivers will say, with justification, that these men and women are just as dangerous as many of those in prison. When they get behind the wheel, they are wielding a potential mutation murder weapon. The General Assembly has just increased the length of possible prison terms for these multiple offenders.
The threat of fines or even prison time does not seem to deter the worst of these potential killers from continuing their dangerous behavior. It's obvious that when someone is arrested multiple times for the same crime, the threat implicit in the law means nothing to them. They often violate the suspension or revocation of their driving privileges. The intoxicated men and women who think they can drive without causing any harm to themselves have a deep mental and physical problem that needs to be addressed.
One solution, used all too infrequently, is to require that convicted drivers' vehicles be equipped with a device that requires them to prove by their breath that they have not been drinking. It's certainly better than just seizing their vehicles.
One possibility might be a lockup specifically created for the multiple offenders, where mandatory alcohol counseling is part of the daily routine.
Increased vigilance and enforcement is working in nabbing the graffiti vandals, judging by the number of stories and photos of offenders. Credit the success to the New Castle County Anti-Graffiti Task Force, headed by Elsmere police, and a Citizen Anti-Graffiti Brigade formed by County Councilman Bob Weiner.
Credit also the ego of the vandals who attach their tags to their "art work," which makes it easier for police to track them down.
Property owners who have been the victims of these taggers would certainly not call the destruction "artistic." In a perverted way, though, one can admire the graffiti-ists' handiwork and their ability to wield those spray cans. Police say most of those arrested are males in their teens or early 20s, from good homes, with too much spare time, interested in getting attention from their fellow vandals by signing their work.
Punishment for the vandals could be severe. Fines have been increased. Prison is an option. Most are sentenced to clean up their mess, not always an easy task, and to additional hundreds of hours of community service. And yet repeat offenders, just like the drunken drivers, don't seem to learn their lessons from their encounter with police and the justice system. If only there were a way to channel their talents into legitimate artistic achievements, perhaps by giving them a designated area to display their "art."
One final unrelated item: Thanks to the reader who caught the reversal in my column last week of a familiar adage. It's "justice delayed is justice denied."
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