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Senator Klein hosts graffiti roundtable

Civic leaders and legal experts sat down with Senator Jeff Klein on Wednesday, October 7 to formulate an anti-graffiti plan for the 34th Senate District, in particular Community Board 10 and Community Board 11.

Members of the Waterbury LaSalle Community Association participated in the heated roundtable discussion, as did Joe Thompson of CB 11, police officer Pasquale Pappalardi of the 45th Precinct, Bronx assistant district attorney Rene Aponte, Bronx District Attorney community affairs director Barbara Robles Gonzalez, TK Singleton of Bronx Community Solutions and Bruce Pinkney of CityServe.

Going forward, Klein plans to coordinate a letter campaign targeted at Bronx judges. He also plans to ask Bronx judges and reps from Bronx County Family Court to a second roundtable discussion. Leaders from 34th Senate District schools will possibly be included. Also on October 7, the senator announced a $100,000 grant to his own graffiti cleanup initiative; CityServe does the work for Klein.

The October 7 discussion touched on three issues: sentences for graffiti vandals, age of graffiti vandals and ways to combat graffiti vandals. Aponte, who handles graffiti cases for the Bronx District Attorney, pushes community service via Bronx Community Solutions for first-time offenders and jail time for repeat offenders.

The typical community service sentence for first-time offenders is five days. The maximum jail time for repeat offenders is 15 days. Only five to ten percent of Bronx graffiti vandals go to jail, Aponte said. Singleton often favors community service even for repeat offenders. Jail transforms teens into hardened criminals, she said.

Andrew Chirico of WLCA is a proponent of jail time for graffiti vandals. Klein agreed that repeat offenders should go to jail. Chirico is also a proponent of fines for graffiti vandals but Aponte rarely pushes fines. When a graffiti vandal is unable to pay a fine, he or she is supposed to go to jail. But judges are loath to lock up graffiti vandals on the basis of economic hardship, Aponte said.

Of the 26 arrests in the 45th Precinct in 2009 so far, 21 involved graffiti vandals aged 12 to 16; most are residents of the 45th Precinct and are 14 or 15 years old, Pappalardi said.

Klein and WLCA plan to launch a court-watcher campaign, wherein Waterbury LaSalle residents would sit in on graffiti cases at court. But the Bronx District Attorney handles thousands of graffiti cases each year; the cases open and close too fast for a court-watcher campaign, Singleton said. Instead, she and Robles Gonzalez suggested that Klein help WLCA draft an anti-graffiti letter for the court files of 45th Precinct graffiti vandals.

WLCA member Mary Jane Musano praised Klein.

“We’re proud of the senator,” Musano said. “He stood up for jail time.”

Pappalardi thinks that Klein and Pinkney do excellent work but warned that graffiti vandals are only too happy to tag freshly cleaned walls. Parents should inspect teens’ school notebooks for tags, Pappalardi said.

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