Police Curb Graffiti by Cracking Down on Spray Paint

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Increased complaints about graffiti are prompting police to remind retailers about an ordinance restricting spray paint sales in Wyandotte County. Buyers need to show identification when purchasing spray paint or broad-tipped markers. Kansas City, Kan., police say retailers have a role to play in controlling graffiti in the surrounding neighborhoods.

When Officer Paula Vallejo sees spray painted gang signs or threats on buildings and walls, she knows it's a warning sign that more dangerous, violent crime may be coming. She says a recent surge in graffiti coincides with retailers failing to comply with a city ordinance, which prohibits sales of spray paint and markers to those under 18.

"A new store came in that I won't name but within two weeks of the time they started carrying spray paint, my district got hit really hard," Vallejo said. "It was traced back to this particular store."

Officers spent the day checking stores that sell spray paint, but only found one, Strasser Hardware, that posted signs warning buyers that they need to show identification and could face a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if they use spray paint to deface property.

"We don't want graffiti either," said Strasser General Manager Leroy Andrews.

Unified Government leaders say they're serious about stopping graffiti.

"People see it as blight and they see it as an area that has potential for violence because of the association of graffiti and gang violence," said Commissioner Ann Murguia. "Even though that isn't always the case, it is the perception that matters to business owners."

The police's three-point plan includes: Making sure businesses restrict sales to minors; passing tougher penalties for those convicted of defacing property. And making sure police officers aggressively go after violators.

"We're going to go back in two weeks and cite everybody who is not in compliance," said Sgt. Darryl Moore, of the community policing division.

Police say they will begin much tougher enforcement of the graffiti ordinance. And juveniles who can't explain why they're in possession of spray paint will be taken into custody.

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