New Indianapolis graffiti ordinance fining owners takes effect

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Apr. 1, 2014) — A new ordinance aimed at ridding the city of Indianapolis of graffiti takes effect Tuesday, and critics believe it has the potential to further victimize those already aggravated by the problem.

City-County Councilor Jeff Miller is a major supporter of the ordinance, which gives property owners a limited amount of time to clean up graffiti after it is reported to the city.

“Graffiti represents disorder, lawlessness,” said Miller.  “It basically tells a neighborhood and anybody that passes through the neighborhood, ‘We don’t care.’  What that does is it brings in more problems.”

Under the ordinance, a property owner will receive a letter from the Department of Code Enforcement after graffiti is reported on their property.  From that point, the owner will have 30 days to remove the graffiti or face a $50 fine.

“Code Enforcement will absolutely be giving extensions,” Miller said.  “We don’t want anybody who wants it cleaned off to get a fee.  The fee and the fine is really for those owners that are not taking care of their property, probably don’t even live there. Likely an abandoned home [and] those are the ones that are dragging down the neighborhoods that we really want cleaned up.”

While critics have said it is unfair to penalize a victim of a crime, Miller said help is available to those who want it.

Along with the letter from Code Enforcement, each resident will receive a pamphlet about the abatement program, he said.  The program helps property owners work with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful to access free or discounted paint, as well as find out more about community cleanups that can provide volunteer labor.

Miller believes the ordinance is necessary.

“What graffiti does, unfortunately, is it makes a neighborhood go down in value.  It makes people’s morale go down.  It just makes people care less about their neighborhood because they feel, ‘Why should I try to make it better?  Look at this mess I have everywhere,'” the council member said.  “Unfortunately, it can invite gang graffiti and when you have gang graffiti, let alone gangs, in a neighborhood, then you’re really in trouble.”