TimesLedger readers know we have used this space to rail against graffiti vandals who have caused millions in damage in Queens. Graffiti destroys property and makes neighborhoods feel unsafe.
Conventional methods of dealing with graffiti, like fines and jail, have not been effective. The Second Chance program used by the Queens district attorney's office makes more sense. It requires vandals to meet with community leaders, receive counseling and work to clean up graffiti.
As they paint over graffiti, vandals begin to understand the community's hate for it. They see that graffiti is a selfish abuse of property. Assistant District Attorney Gail Giordano said the program has been effective in Corona's 110th Precinct.
As they paint over graffiti, vandals must deal with the humiliation of being stuck in a work crew in public. But the program's organizers said the real benefits come from positive reinforcement, such as store owners thanking them for cleaning up the walls. For many kids it's the first praise they've received from adults.
According to Giordano, only 4 percent of participants become repeat offenders. That is remarkable. Police support Second Chance with an effort to crack down on stores selling graffiti supplies and use computers to track vandals' tags.
Just maybe this is a war people can win.
©2008 Community News Group
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