Ban Spray Paint, Stop Gang Activity? Not Likely

"We have two Hispanic female gangs that are overtaking each other," Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council President Pete Spalding said at a meeting of the 34th District Democrats last night near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. Spalding says that the two gangs are from somewhere else, but have been tagging buildings in the northern section of Delridge in West Seattle. To try and stop them, he wants to ban spray paint sales to minors.

Spalding brought up the gangs in order to bolster his request that the Mayor and City Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Bruce Harrell, who were in attendance, ban spray paint sales to minors. Hardware store owners, consider yourselves on notice, you may be about to become a target for wanna be thugs looking to boost contraband Krylon.

Spalding found sympathetic ears among the elected officials present. Harrell suggested that kids need some kind of brainwashing to keep them from joining gangs and defacing property. "I think we're all concerned about this issue," Conlin added. But no one was willing to commit to an outright ban last night.

Unfortunately for Spalding, a ban might not have much effect on groups of she-hoodlums roving through his neighborhood marking their territory if other cities' experience is any indication.

Chicago banned aerosol paint sales to individuals completely in 1992. But according to the American Coatings Association, while there was a slight decrease in the amount of paint graffiti, marker and scratched glass vandalism went up.

In 2005, New York City made it illegal for anyone ages 18 to 20 to buy spray paint or broad-tipped permanent markers. Anyone in that age range caught carrying those items on city property could also be fined. One year later, the law had been enforced all of twice, and artists were fighting it in court.

Still New York expanded the ban to include all people under the age of 21 in 2007. Because city governments are nothing if not willing to pass reactionary laws no matter how ineffectual they might be in practice.

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