PHOTO: The State Senate has passed a bill that would increase penalties for bias or gang-related graffiti, and permit judges to require perpetrators to complete a diversity training program. Photo Courtesy of Daily Urban Culture
By Forum Staff
The State Senate recently voted to approve a bill that would increase penalties for graffiti intentionally written to encourage gang activity, express hateful bias or deface places of religious worship, and permit judges to require perpetrators to complete a diversity training program, according to Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach).
“Graffiti is a continuing neighborhood plague that causes all of us a great deal of frustration when shops, walls, sidewalks and other public places are covered with what is often mindless, unattractive scribbling,” Addabbo said. “However, when that graffiti turns into swastikas or hateful language, incites gang activity or is intended to mar institutions of religious faith, that’s when your garden-variety, irritating vandalism takes a step over the line and requires greater punishment.”
Under the legislation recently approved by the full Senate, penalties would be increased for graffiti intentionally motivated by bias against a person’s race, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, and other factors. Greater punishment for graffiti that seeks to promote gang-related activities or that defaces places of religious worship or items of faith – including scrolls, vestments, and religious vessels – would also be meted out under the bill, which creates two new “E” felonies punishable by up to four years in prison.
“This legislation also permits judges to require those convicted of bias-related graffiti to complete diversity training programs and to personally clean up and remove the ugly fruits of their vandalism,” said Addabbo. “Spending all that time and effort trying to remove their graffiti – while getting necessary instruction in humanity and respect for others – may make perpetrators think twice before they spew their hatred on our churches, synagogues, mosques, neighborhood streets, local businesses and other public places in our communities. No matter where it occurs, we need to strongly denounce graffiti that issues a call to arms for violence or that seeks to denigrate people based on their race, religion, nationality or any other human characteristic. While vandalism of any kind is certainly unwelcome in our communities, we need to take a strong stance against graffiti that belittles others and that makes all of us just a little smaller by its very existence.”
The bill is currently under review by the Assembly Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection.