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Clawson takes stance against graffiti

Attorney warns that violators will face ‘harsh hand of the law’

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published April 15, 2015

CLAWSON — City Council members April 7 unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance created to head off graffiti in the city.

“This is a very proactive, very aggressive ordinance,” City Attorney Jon Kingsepp said. “And we want to send a message out that the harsh hand of the law, not the gentle hand, will be coming down on those who are caught.”

The city attorney said this ordinance is different than being charged with malicious destruction of property.

“It probably supplements MDOP, depending upon the facts, but it was drafted because there’s been damage to new construction of athletic fields in the county and elsewhere, spray paint, and with the substantial improvements going on in the park, we want to be sure that’s in place,” Kingsepp said. “We have other measures we’re taking, as well, that is going to show our active pursuit of anyone that decides to do damage to the improvements.”

Violating the proposed graffiti ordinance would be a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of not more than $500 for each offense. The new ordinance includes community service and restitution of the cost to remove the graffiti.

“And to the extent that we can get a felony, we will get a felony,” Kingsepp said. “That is how serious we are.”

Clawson Mayor Penny Luebs said that with the passing of the $3.8 million bond proposal in 2014 for park upgrades and improvements, warding off any type of graffiti is important.

Improvements at City Park, which will begin in a couple of weeks, include replacing the track; adding artificial turf on the football field; adding new visitor bleachers, new lights and fencing; upgrading the softball and baseball fields along with the tot lot; and adding a skate park. The Grant Park parking lot will also be renovated.

“We’d like to keep it new in the park and other areas of the city,” Luebs said.

As defined in the ordinance, graffiti “means any mark or marks of any nature or design on any surface or structure made, created or added to without the prior permission of the property owner or occupant and made in any manner, including but not limited to writing, inscribing, drawing, tagging, sketching, spray-painting, painting, etching, scratching, carving, engraving, scraping, or attaching to said surface.”

Kingsepp said that chalk marks on sidewalks are not graffiti, nor is graffiti inclusive of any posting of posters, as permitted under Clawson’s code of ordinances.

Under the new ordinance, all graffiti must be removed within seven days or the city will remediate and pass on the charges to the business owners.

“My only concern is that the building owner has a seven-day period to take care of it itself, otherwise the city will take care of it,” Councilman Gregory Kucera Jr. said during the April 7 meeting.

Kingsepp said that he thinks it is wise to have a timetable for removal in the ordinance.

“But it is also wiser to have a policy internally regarding working with the business owner,” Kingsepp said, adding that leeway regarding the amount of time could be granted.

The final reading of the ordinance and vote for adoption is expected to occur at the council’s April 21 regular meeting.

Kucera said he felt the ordinance came at a good time with the recent rash of graffiti in Royal Oak.

At about 4 p.m. April 6, off-duty Royal Oak police officers were jogging in the area of Farnum and Maxwell avenues when they observed two juvenile males spray painting graffiti on the railroad overpass.

According to police, the juveniles were detained until on-duty officers arrived. The suspects were arrested for malicious destruction of property and possession of marijuana, tobacco and narcotic paraphernalia.

Royal Oak Police Lt. David Clemens said there has been an increase of graffiti activity throughout the city, which if left unchecked, perpetuates additional incidents.

Clemens said the Royal Oak Police Department is documenting these incidents, including photographing them, in an attempt to identify the suspects involved.

Clemens encouraged parents to discuss the seriousness of the crime with their children and to monitor for signs of this criminal activity, as it is typically committed by young adults and teenagers. He said that suspects involved in graffiti typically have Sharpie markers, paint cans and paint pens stored with an art book inside a backpack or bag.

Anyone witnessing graffiti should contact the police department immediately.