The removal of graffiti defacing homes and businesses in Kenner now will be the responsibility of the owners of vandalized property, at least in most cases, the Kenner City Council decided Thursday.
Officials said the new measure will not be an unreasonable burden on owners. After receiving a notice from the city to remove graffiti, an owner will have 30 days to either comply or ask for more time before being subject to a possible fine.
One of the measure’s co-sponsors, Councilman Keith Conley, said he also is working on legislation that would require people convicted of certain crimes to remove graffiti from vandalized homes and businesses as a form of community service.
The impetus for the new regulations was the recent spray-painting of a handful of obscene drawings visible from the playground of a children’s day care center.
Conley and fellow Councilman Keith Reynaud began working on the measure the council approved Thursday after they received a complaint from resident Stacey Allesandro in early May.
Allesandro contacted the council after spotting a 4-foot-long penis that had been spray-painted onto a wooden fence across from a day care on 36th Street.
Two smaller graffiti depicting the same image also had popped up at the back of neighboring car wash, and they easily could be seen through a chain-link fence surrounding the day care’s playground.
When city officials researched their options following Allesandro’s complaint, they realized there was no law by which they could compel the owners of the fence and car wash to remove the offensive imagery. They also didn’t have the authority to go onto private property and remove the graffiti themselves, they said.
The images were removed within a few days, but officials did not like the lack of an enforcement mechanism.
“We needed to have something to remedy that (type of) situation down the road,” Conley said.
The measure Conley, Reynaud and the Kenner City Attorney’s Office subsequently drafted reclassifies the act of defacing either private or municipal property with graffiti as criminal damage to property instead of criminal mischief, as it was defined until now.
Furthermore, the measure tasks property owners with erasing graffiti marring their homes or businesses within a reasonable amount of time. The city will remain responsible for removing graffiti from municipal property.
The measure passed 6-0 after a brief discussion. Councilman Gregory Carroll was absent for the vote.
Conley said abating graffiti is an important responsibility for both the city and private property owners to maintain a good quality of life in Kenner.
“What kind of message does that send to other (people) considering coming to Kenner when they see that?” she said. “Graffiti brings the image of the whole city down.”