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The high price of being a victim

Boston, like most major cities, has a bit of a grafitti problem. It's an eyesore, for one, and it tends to lead to other forms of unpleasantness. So the city has a plan to get rid of it: if the owner of the vandalized property doesn't get it cleaned up, they'll fine them.

They aren't completely heartless, though. Once the vandalized property has drawn official notice, the owner has 30 days where they can ask the city to come and clean it up, free of charge. After that window closes, they have another 30 days to do it themselves. After that, the city can fine them -- $100 for the first offense, $200 for subsequent offenses.

The notion of increasing the penalties for committing the vandalism, or starting a crackdown on the vandals, seems to have escaped their notice. Instead, they simply choose to shift the burden to the victims of the crime, who have to spend either time or money to curb the problem.

It's pretty much in the spirit of the city. In Boston, property owners are responsible for cleaning the sidewalks in front of their properties, too. If you're walking in downtown Boston and slip on the ice, be sure to do it in front of a swanky establishment -- you can get a lot more money from a jeweler, for example, than a pizza place.

Comments (15)

Do you think the motive of ... (Below threshold)
Bill K:

Do you think the motive of the city is to actually fine the businesses? It appears that they are just giving the owners motivation to report vandalism instead of letting it sit and be the eyesore you claim it is.

If you owned a property in this area, and it was grafittied, and you knew you could call the city and have it removed FOR FREE, wouldn't you just call the first day and be done with it?

How about giving some props to the city for putting the onus of cleaning up others people's crap on themselves. There are ordaninces in cities that fine homeowners if they don't mow their lawn and it becomes unruly enough to harm the image of the community. Yet, those communities aren't offering to mow your lawn if notify them within 30 days.

I wasn't in the meetings, but the genesis of this problem seems to stem from inaction of the business owners more than a city revenue opportunity. The city wants the problem fixed, they are offering to fix it if you place a phone call, apparently the phone calls aren't being placed, so they are giving another incentive (above and beyond your building being tagged) to call.

The city is spending a quarter of a million dollars to save the businesses the cost of removing grafitti, yet they are the bad guys? How about a business owner who is too lazy to remove a eyesore from his company when it costs him nothing?

I agree with Bill, all Bost... (Below threshold)

I agree with Bill, all Boston is trying to do is to get people to show some initiative. Too many people have a "what can you do?" attitude. If it takes a little financial pain to get them off their lazy butts, then you give them pain.

If you don't care enough about your business to give a good presentation, then you shouldn't be in that business.

Why doesn't the city just s... (Below threshold)

Why doesn't the city just send some workers around to the victims of the graffiti, knock on their door (or walk in and ask to speak to the manager), and get permission to clean it up right then and there?

If there's so keen to do it.. let THEM spend 2 minutes asking for permission. If they get it, go ahead and clean it, otherwise head over to the next victim...

I guess that's just too sensible for government to implement.

So, the city, by sending th... (Below threshold)

So, the city, by sending the notice, knows where the graffitti is. By sending the notice, they know who owns/manages the property.
Given these two facts, I'll side with Jay. They aren't asking people to REPORT, as Bill K seems to think. IF you got the notice, the city already knows,ne? Nor is this an issue like vegetation, that grows on its own and the resident/business can choose what type they have in the first place.
No, since the city knows where the stuff is, they should go clean it up, and only fine the property if the don't allow the city to do their job.

The sidewalk-clearing stuff... (Below threshold)

The sidewalk-clearing stuff is true in NYC as well. What's great about that law is it ensures that sidewalks are cleared really, really quickly. The threat of lawsuit is so much more diffuse when it's city government as opposed to a private property owner.

But I have a question - what if you decide to open up one of your walls to "free expression", in that it's not vandalism but a private art installation? Of course, there's probably zoning laws for that.

Okay, you report it. Now th... (Below threshold)

Okay, you report it. Now the City knows you have an eyesore. Hmm, lets see, if the city then does not clean it for 30 days, it can start fining the business. So, in effect, by reporting the vandalism, the city gets a nice list of future revenue spots.

Oh, and what do you think that shortly we'll find due to poor workmanship during the cleaning, the city will have no choice but to license the vandalism removal workers, and coincidently, the only workers "skilled" enough are union painters?

Krsitian, I doubt ... (Below threshold)
Bill K:


I doubt that is how it works. The clock surely stops when reported.

Nicholas' point is good though, if they are so worried about it, just clean it up in the first place. But, to that point, and that of SCSIwuzzy, I don't think the city does know without notification. I dont' think that many people are going to see this bill even if the graffiti stays for months or years. The city workers that do this aren't driving by every business.

The person that DOES KNOW the exact day the graffiti got there is the business owner, and if he thinks there is some source that is going to bill him if he doesn't call the city, he is probably more likely to report it.

Based on the amount of the fine and the structure of the law, I don't think you will see a single fine levied. It seems to be purely a behavorial training attempt. If you get graffiti, report it.

The city can't spend millions patrolling for grafitti, so why not put out a law, if not even enforced, that makes people want to report it more often?

All of this seems to be coming from a benevolent beginning, and I just don't think there efforts to HELP the businesses should be met with so much animousity.

For a business owner the fine really shouldn't matter as it should never get to that point in the first place. If my building were tagged and I could call the city, I would. Plain and simple.

the city is doing its best ... (Below threshold)

the city is doing its best to clean up graffiti and effeciently... sending people around to ask permission is costly...
cheaper just to send spotters and send them a letter...

Responsibility for the publ... (Below threshold)

Responsibility for the public property adjacent to your private property seems to be the general rule. I'm responsible for the sidewalk in front of my house. If somebody slips on ice I didn't clear (within a reasonable period of time following the snow/ice storm), I'm responsible, as is my insurance company.

In DC, particularly in older neighborhoods, people only own the property that the house sits on, not the lawn, not the back yard, only the land encompassed by the walls of the house. But the person enjoying the use of the city-owned lawn is still responsible for the trees on that lawn. If the tree's in bad condition and sheds a limb, that's a problem for the person owning the house, not the city. If the tree needs to come down, that's the home owner's problem, not the actual owner's (the city's) problem. But you do need a city permit to remove the tree...

Suing deep-pocket commercial establishments because of slips or falls on their sidewalks is an old, well-established custom of the slime. I swear you can see them with their stop watches, waiting for the grace period to expire in having the snow removed.

Why not force skells in pri... (Below threshold)

Why not force skells in prison to clean up the graffiti? That kind of work is drudgery and will serve to: a) punish the skell, and b) they all know who the graffiti belongs to and when they get out of prison they'll hunt that person down and kill em. Problem solved.

While attending law ... (Below threshold)

While attending law school in Boston, I frequently noticed that no matter how icy the streets became, the sidewalk in front of the law school remained clear. Although many Boston businesses honored the "sidewalk" law in the breach, somehow it makes a strange sort of ironic sense that the law schools would take it seriously.

The city is spending a quar... (Below threshold)

The city is spending a quarter of a million dollars to save the business the cost of graffitti removal. So the city gets up at 6 AM every morning and goes to work and gets a paycheck each week. Well the city's paycheck is "our" money. Threatening to fine them, no matter what your noble intent, is the same as fining someone for being the victim of a crime. Tagging and graffitti is a crime, although I like Moseby's solution I think the better way to resolve this issue is to fine the taggers (most of whom can be identified by their tag) the amount of the clean up cost and a little jail time for subsequent offenses. What's next in Boston, getting fined for being robbed too many times?

Steve,It isn't one... (Below threshold)
Bill K:


It isn't one or the other. Conviction of criminal OR fine. The city isn't just letting the perps go, and the penalty for graffiti I am sure is more than $100.

And, seriously, they are only punishing the business after the business has purposefully neglected to call and have the tag removed FOR FREE. Jeez.

In Westlake Ohio, the rule ... (Below threshold)

In Westlake Ohio, the rule is that nature put the snow there, so you are only responsible for slip/falls if you try to remove it and it becomes icy. This results in no one shoveling their walks at all but ultimately makes sense. If it snows all day, should you have to be standing there with a shovel? If someone falls at noon after 4 hours of snow, but you were at work, should it be your fault they choose to make a poor decision?

Also, perhaps the care and ... (Below threshold)

Also, perhaps the care and attention to ones business appearance should be greater if one owns the building. I'm sure that sending out generic grafitti removers from the city means you get what you get. Giving them 30 days to match their paint and get it done properly by the person(s) of their choice seems fair enough when the alternative could be beige paint on one side of a building.

The city is seeing a problem, addressing the problem, allowing for people of limited means to get free help if they want it, and fining those who ignore them. All in all, I think it is correct.

Now if we could just get them to finish the "Big Dig".........






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