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SF looks to to civil courts to curb graffiti

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POSTED August 23, 2015 5:51 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — You spray, you pay.

In a bid to slow a graffiti epidemic, San Francisco is using an innovative legal maneuver and asking courts to treat the city like a property owner and allow it to seek damages for cleanups.

The city has sued a woman that officials describe as an infamous graffiti vandal. In a complaint, the city alleges Cozy Terry is responsible for 28 acts of vandalism on city buses, as well as other instances of defacing city property.

Deputy City Attorney Jill Cannon tells the newspaper that cleanup and repairs will total nearly $54,000, and the city wants a judgment against the woman to cover the bill.

“We are trying to send a message,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, “that this will be taken seriously and it is going to cost them.”

City officials tweaked local laws to make it easier to bring such cases to civil court. Generally, a civil lawsuit is easier to prove than a criminal one. The latter requires guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, while civil judgments need a preponderance of evidence, a lower standard compared to criminal court.

Evidence being compiled by city attorneys includes social media postings of graffiti.

“I hope graffiti taggers take notice,” Cannon said. “When the victim is San Francisco, we are going to do something about it.

You can’t do this and expect no consequences.”

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