Often in Queens, graffiti is more than an eyesore — it’s a symbol of violence and hate. Several state lawmakers now want the vandals responsible to pay a heavy price for such dirty deeds, including lengthy jail terms.
The state Senate recently approved legislation (S.849) increasing penalties against convicted graffiti vandals who defaced houses of worship or left gang signs or hateful statements on places of worship.
Should the legislation become law, such crimes would be reclassified as Class E felonies punishable by up to four years in prison.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who voted for the legislation, said many places of worship in his district have been marred with hateful or offensive graffiti in the recent past, citing the Rockwood Park Jewish Center in Howard Beach as one example.
“I don’t think there’s any religious site that’s immune to it,” he said, adding that “this kind of graffiti is unacceptable” at any location.
The state Senate bill specifically mandates that penalties would be increased against those found guilty of committing graffiti that was “intentionally motivated by bias against a person’s race, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice and other factors,” as noted in a statement from Addabbo’s office.
Vandals who make graffiti that promotes gang-related activities and/or defaces places of worship or items of religious faith, such as scrolls, garments and religious vessels, would face the most serious penalties, including jail time.
“This legislation also permits judges to require those convicted of bias-related graffiti to complete diversity training programs and to personally clean up and remove the ugly fruits of their vandalism,” Addabbo added. “Spending all that time and effort trying to remove their graffiti — while getting necessary instruction in humanity and respect for others — may make perpetrators think twice before they spew their hatred.”
Addabbo urged the Assembly to consider and pass the bill this session.