CHICAGO (CBS) — A City Council panel has endorsed stiffer penalties for people caught defacing buildings and other structures with graffiti.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the Committee on Public Safety on Thursday recommended the full City Council approve increased fines for those convicted of graffiti offenses from $750 to a range of $1,500 to $2,500.

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Debbie De Lopez, who runs the city’s graffiti removal program, said fines for graffiti haven’t changed in years, and it’s time for substantially higher penalties.

Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) said he wanted even more severe punishments for graffiti, but supported the Emanuel administration’s proposal.

“Once it sits out there for a day, or two days, and people see it as they’re driving through their community, walking through their community, the first impression they have is ‘Something is horrible in my neighborhood. The gangs are taking over,’” he said.

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Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) applauded the measure, telling the city’s graffiti removal crews it’s a frustrating crime.

“The graffiti – whether it be gang graffiti, or just the tagging – it’s ridiculous. We call you, you come, you take it down, and then the next day it’s right back up there again,” she said.

Near North District Police Cmdr. William Dunn said catching graffiti vandals is tough to do, but it does happen.

“We have around 350 a year that are actually for the criminal defacement, which is actually graffitiing,” he said.

Police make another 3,000 arrests per year for criminal damage to property, which is a broader charge, but sometimes includes graffiti.

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The city spent nearly $4 million for graffiti removal last year.