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Rahm Emanuel Proposes Higher Fines For Graffiti

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By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to increase fines and penalties for graffiti vandals.

The proposal would increase fines from the current $750 to a range from $1,500 to $2,500, with the higher fines for repeat offenders.

Fines for vandalism have remained unchanged for nearly a decade.

In the 2014 budget, Mayor Emanuel also added nearly $1 million to the City’s Graffiti Removal Program, according to a City Hall news release.

The investments include two additional blasting crews, an additional painting crew and two additional chemical graffiti removal trucks to bring the fleet total to four chemical trucks.

The city also recently started a weekend shift for graffiti removal.

Steve Jensen of the Bucktown community Organization points to tags marking his neighborhood as proof graffiti is on the rise.

“It’s horrendous — it pops up every day,” he tells CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole.

Currently, 25 Graffiti Blaster crews work on a grid system, hitting each ward roughly once every 10 days to wash away the rising number of tags. From 2012 to 2013, graffiti removal requests jumped from 110,000 to roughly 137,000.

Debbie DeLopez, a manager of the program, says she hopes the stiffer fines would serve as a deterrent.

“Once they get caught and they have to pay for it, we’re hoping that it will,” she says.

Separately in April, the CTA started going after the families of minors caught tagging stations and trains, filing four lawsuits to date. Community activists like Jensen say these efforts should have come sooner