Police take graffiti seriously, WPD Sgt. statesWORTHINGTON — Authorities are still in the process of investigating graffiti that appeared on the VFW sign in downtown Worthington early this week, and Worthington Police Sgt. Bill Bolt said the department takes such vandalism seriously.
WORTHINGTON — Authorities are still in the process of investigating graffiti that appeared on the VFW sign in downtown Worthington early this week, and Worthington Police Sgt. Bill Bolt said the department takes such vandalism seriously.
“Graffiti is criminal damage to property,” Bolt explained. “It is a misdemeanor offense or higher, depending on the amount of damage.”
According to state statute, an individual or group of people responsible for graffiti can be liable for damages up to three times the cost of restoring the property, and parents are liable for damages caused by their juvenile children. Bolt said in his experience, a majority of individuals who commit graffiti are minors.
“Every community has it,” he said. “It can be gang-related or individual-based, but the simple fact that it appears doesn’t mean anything more than vandalism.”
The Worthington Police Department keeps records of prior graffiti by use of photographs, then compare instances and try to determine if there are similarities.
They also make determinations on how widespread the markings are and how far a particular individual or group is getting around town.
“They usually mark near their own home,” Bolt said. “It’s my belief that those responsible are doing it in their own neighborhoods, usually within walking distance.”
Often, graffiti is reported by patrol officers who find it while they are out on the streets. Photos are taken, neighborhoods are canvassed and resources tapped for any knowledge.
“We have zero tolerance for graffiti,” said Worthington’s Neighborhood Services Officer Myra Onnen. “And once it is found, it needs to be removed immediately. Once it is seen, it can end up everywhere.”
“It’s like it becomes an encouragement for additional graffiti,” Bolt added.
Most graffiti is done with spray paint, etching equipment, markers or paint sticks, Bolt said, and most of the vandalism takes place at night in locations where low visibility lessons the likelihood of being caught.
“Our greatest resource to combating vandalism and graffiti is the public being willing to report suspicious behavior,” he said. “If it doesn’t look right, and you don’t think it feels right, we want you to call. You can remain anonymous if you wish, and the more detail you can give us — location, clothing, height, age, description — the more it will aid us in locating and identifying people.”
Regardless of the age of the perpetrator, the police in Worthington will not tolerate graffiti.
“When we can’t deter it, we investigate to the utmost of our ability with a goal toward prosecution,” Bolt said.
Stores are prohibited from selling spray paint to minors, and anyone under the age of 18 in possession of the paint and markers normally used in graffiti is violating city ordinance, Bolt said. Not that the police don’t take intent into consideration, he explained. A group of kids working on a parade float or organized project is one thing. A 12-year-old behind a building on his own with a spray paint can is another.
Most parents, when informed their child had just been caught vandalizing something, are surprised, he said.
“There’s usually a lack of knowing what their kids were doing or where they were,” he added.
In conjunction with knowing where their kids are, parents should also be aware of what the curfew hours are in the city of Worthington. According to the ordinance, curfew for a minor aged 16 or 17 is 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday until 6 a.m. the following day, and midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Those 15 years old and younger have a curfew of 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday until 6 a.m. the next day.
Under the ordinance, there are allowances for emergency situations and accompaniment by a parent or guardian.
Worthington’s ordinance regarding graffiti declares it to be a public nuisance. Any person applying graffiti on public or private property has the duty to remove the graffiti within 24 hours after notice by the city or private owner of the property involved. The person applying graffiti is responsible for the removal and the payment of the removal, or if applied by a minor, the parents or legal guardians are responsible for removal or for payment of removal.
Owners of property that is vandalized through graffiti are obligated to remove or cover up the marks within 10 days of the incident, with some exceptions. Those exceptions include removal that would cause genuine financial hardship, cold weather complications or if the property owner has an active program for the removal of the graffiti and has scheduled the removal as part of that program.