Commissioners discuss graffiti ordinance (video added)

ALBANY, Ga. -- Ward I Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard told his fellow commissioners Tuesday that graffiti "tags" on local facades are staying up entirely too long and he wants the commission to shorten the time business owners have to remove them.

The city's current graffiti ordinance requires local property owners to remove spray-painted symbols, called "tags" by street gangs, within 30 days after receiving notice from police.

Howard said Tuesday that when the ordinance is enforced, 30 days is entirely too long when compared to similar ordinances in other cities.

"Most other cities realize the best thing for graffiti is to get it down as soon as possible," Howard said after the meeting.

He said he would like to see the time requirement in the ordinance to be whittled down from 30 days to 10 or even 5 days.

The challenge, according to Mayor Willie Adams, is avoiding punishing private business owners for the damage done by others to their businesses.

Adams said he would like to see the city take advantage of inmate labor to help reduce the burden on those businesses and see if local paint stores would offer discounts for the purchase of the needed paint.

Currently, volunteers with Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful paint over graffiti they see after getting permission from property owners and paint.

Mayor Pro Tem and Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta said he would like to see some provision that would require those who are caught "tagging" to remove the graffiti throughout the city.

That's an idea Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards says he's amenable to.

As district attorney, Edwards said his office can recommend that graffiti cleanup be part of recommended sentences for those who are convicted or plead guilty to being in a street gang, although judges have the final authority on sentencing.

"We're more than willing to help the city, through supporting an ordinance, or sentence recommendations," Edwards said.

Many cities require business owners to remove graffiti within five days, including Savannah and Smyrna. In Roswell, police paint over graffiti.

Wayne Carter, a local property owner who owns shopping centers along Dawson Road, was at the meeting Tuesday and sent an e-mail to commissioners urging them not to put a punitive measure on business owners.

"I am asking the city leaders to take a stand against graffiti and stop trying to figure out how to add INSULT to injury by prosecuting the property owners who are the victims of the graffiti crimes," that e-mail states.

Carter suggests an ordinance that requires businesses to report graffiti, allow property owners 10 days to paint over the graffiti after a police report is generated, and after 10 days impose a fine on property owners who don't either paint over the graffiti or allow the city to paint over the graffiti.

Tuesday's discussion will be continued at the city's next work session.