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Lawmakers consider state-level anti-graffiti program

By Sam Eifling / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 4:11 p.m. HST, Feb 7, 2014

Hawaii would post cameras on state property and hire someone to coordinate anti-graffiti programs if lawmakers pass a bill they are considering.

The bill (SB2602) states that graffiti on buildings, walls, bridges, bus stops, trees, mail boxes and other surfaces is a blight on Hawaii.

City and county police handle graffiti now, said Shawn Tsuha, the Department of Public Safety's deputy director of law enforcement. Police generally catch taggers only when they stake out a spot or, more commonly, a witness calls 911, he said.

"Hawaii's starting to get more and more graffiti," he said. "With the explosion of social media, taggers are going for a worldwide audience now. Before it was gangbangers marking territory, prospective artists trying to put up some love message to someone."

The bill would put an anti-graffiti coordinator in the office of the lieutenant governor. It would also install cameras to catch vandals on state property such as highway signs and bridges.

"It's trying to leverage a coordinator so the anti-graffiti efforts at the state level can be synchronized," Tsuha said.

Observers of the burgeoning Honolulu street art scene expressed hope that enforcement efforts would not conflate all spray-paint artists with vandals.

Steven P. Harrington, the editor-in-chief of Brooklyn Street Art, a website that tracks street art worldwide, said the art festival POW! WOW! Hawaii, which takes place this month, has given Honolulu an international reputation as a destination for street artists and muralists.

"No one can condone vandalism," Harrington said. "However, a lot of vandals eventually grow into really good artists. I can name 20 people who have graduated from being vandals to, as they got older, getting very good at their craft."

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