Today’s news:

Editorial: A Scam buster

Kudos to Fox 5 reporter for having the guts to get in the face of a Ridgewood bully. Thanks to an investigative report by Andrea Day, an alleged Queens scam artist is out of business.

Gary Janiak was arrested after allegedly threatening to kill the reporter who blew the whistle on a business that offered to pay $4,000 a night to drivers for taking topless dancers to their place of business. In order to get the job, applicants had to send $800 to Janiak by Western Union. Alleged victims said they paid the money but never got the "dream job."

With cameras rolling, Day confronted Janiak about the alleged scam and the guy went berserk. This made for great television. But it was also a public service.

Con artists rob innocent people of their money and their dreams. Oftentimes they take advantage of people who can least afford it. The police tend to treat such scams as low-level crime and, at times, even blame the victims for their foolishness.

We don't know if Janiak is guilty or not. That's for jury to decide. No matter what, Ms. Day and her crew at Fox 5 should take pride in having had the courage to fight for the little guy.

Editorial: War on graffiti

In recent years, it looked like Queens might actually be winning the war on graffiti. That is no longer the case. The vandals are out in force and a city facing massive budget cuts can no longer be counted on to lead the fight against this quality of life crime.

In communities from Astoria to Springfield Gardens, the blight is back. A new generation of vandals has been emboldened. The people of Queens should have no patience with the sympathizers who ramble on about the artistic merit of infantile bubble letters or the kindhearted but misdirected folks who think kids do graffiti because there aren't enough youth centers.

Bull.

Most graffiti is ugly. People do graffiti have no respect for the property of others. They boost their undernourished egos by putting their "tags" in as many places as possible. They continue to vandalize because there is little or no risk involved in getting caught. Police make few arrests for graffiti and judges seldom hand out a serious punishment.

Perhaps the most common and meaningless result o the rare graffiti arrest is a fine. More often than not, mommy and daddy pay the $50 or whatever the judge asks and the vandal never feels the pain. It would be far more effective to make graffiti vandals pay for their crimes through community service. Make people who get caught doing graffiti spend long hours cleaning up graffiti. If kids knew that the first time they got caught doing graffiti they would be required to do a minimum of 100 hours community service, they'd think twice before tagging a wall. The hours should increase for repeat offenders.

After a week of painting over or washing off graffiti, kids start to look at this vandalism in a different way.

There should be no doubt that graffiti hurts the community. It turns an average neighborhood into a dangerous-looking place and it lowers property values. According to the "broken-windows" theory, when relatively minor quality-of-life crimes go unpunished it leads to more serious criminal activity.

Punishment, of course, is only one side of the coin. Business leaders must be vigilant in keeping their streets graffiti free. It takes only 15 minutes or so to paint over graffiti on a roll-down gate. A zero-tolerance would frustrate the vandals. Communities such as Ridgewood have shown that this is a war that can be won. They rightfully take pride in their war against vandalism.

Editorial: Drawing the line

Based on information gathered in the 2000 Census, New York is about to enter the highly politicized process of drawing new district lines. Minority groups are already circling the wagons, fighting to make sure they are fairly represented when the drawing is done.

New lines will eventually be drawn for congressional and statewide office. Because the state's population has declined, New York will lose two congressional seats. These should not come from New York City where the population has grown.

In the past, congressional lines with the express purpose of creating districts for specific minority groups. In some cases, this resulted in the creation of districts with bizarre shapes crossing several counties, where constituents had nothing in common except ethnic origin.

Districts should be geographically based, not drawn to patronize ethnic or political groupings.

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