Anti-Graffiti Plan Shows Difficulty of Finding Solution

By Cain, Andrew | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 24, 1996 | Go to article overview

Anti-Graffiti Plan Shows Difficulty of Finding Solution


Cain, Andrew, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Fairfax City, sick of graffiti vandalism, hopes to round up a regional posse of Northern Virginia governments that will ban the sale of spray paint and wide-tipped markers to minors.

But even local officials who support the intent of the proposed enabling legislation doubt its practicality.

The issue illustrates that while local governments agree graffiti is a menace, they are still struggling to find workable solutions.

"To strike the proper balance between protecting property and individual rights is a tough one," said Fairfax City Mayor John Mason, a Republican.

The Fairfax City Council voted Dec. 7 to seek permission from the Virginia legislature to ban sales of spray paint and wide-tipped markers to minors in the city.

Jeff Greenfield, 30, a Republican in his third year on the council, came up with the idea after reading up on Virginia Beach's efforts to fight graffiti. City officials there noted that bans on sales of spray paint and markers to minors appeared to help curb vandalism in large cities such as Chicago. Such a ban would be "another tool in the kit," said Mr. Greenfield, a program analyst for the Department of Agriculture who also runs a cellular communications company.

"If we don't try it, we'll never know."

Given Fairfax City's small size, it is seeking a regional approach. If other governments join the request for enabling legislation, the council hopes to create a regional ban.

"I see this as something to put another arrow in the quiver" of communities fighting graffiti vandalism, said Mr. Mason.

But from Alexandria to Fairfax County, local governments are skeptical.

"Unless we get every other jurisdiction to go along with this, I don't know that it's very useful," said Julia Lyman, a Democrat who serves with Mr. Greenfield and Mr. Mason on the Fairfax City Council.

The idea has not yet crystallized into a bill. One of the city's four state legislators will draft a bill at the council's request and submit it in the session that begins Jan. 8, Mr. Mason said.

Such a bill likely would ban sales to minors, but minors would be allowed to possess spray paint or wide-tipped markers. A clerk likely would ask a young purchaser for identification to prove his age. …

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