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[whitespace] West Valley cities join anti-graffiti campaign

West Valley--In the next few weeks, posters, bumper stickers and billboards broadcasting "Tag You Lose" will blanket "every corner of the county" says Erik Schoennauer, spokesman for the Santa Clara County Cities Association. The white-on-aqua message will be plastered inside and outside buses, on garbage trucks, in ads at the movie theaters, in public buildings, in malls, schools, libraries and anywhere else young people congregate.

Santa Clara county cities have fought disfiguring graffiti with millions in a paint-over-the-problem approach that can't keep pace with spraypaint-wielding taggers.

Well, now the cities are launching an offensive.

When the Santa Clara County Cities Association met to plan the 1999 agenda, graffiti was at the top of everyone's list. All 15 cities, including Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga decided to band together with an aggressive get-to-the-taggers-before-they-tag program dubbed Tag You Lose.

The main thrust of the program is to warn young people that the county will strictly enforce the new California Vehicle Code 13202.6 ("Do Graffiti, Lose Your License") that allows a judge to suspend a tagger's driver's license as punishment for conviction of graffiti vandalism. Taggers too young yet to drive can find their eligibility for a driver's license delayed one whole year.

"Teens don't worry about detention, or fines, but they do care about their drivers' licenses," Schoennauer explains.

"The state is able to use the driver's license suspension (for a person of any age) as punishment for graffiti vandalism," Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Chief Larry Todd explains, "because having a driver's license in the U.S. is considered a privilege not a right."

A driver's license is just one of three possible losses in the Tag You Lose campaign. Two others include losing weekends by having free time devoted to community service and losing money in retribution for damages. Parents will also be held responsible and, according to the discretion of the juvenile judge, could lose time or money as well.

The plan, unveiled May 25 at Juvenile Hall, is the first time all 15 cities in the county have come together to promote a single message about graffiti over the entire county. Every city has officially passed a resolution endorsing the plan and pledges to get the message out.

"This is like the drunken driving consciousness raising program," Chief Todd explains, "and that program substantially reduced fatalities and injuries due to drunken driving."

Juvenile Court's presiding Judge Tom Edwards and Santa Clara County District Attorney George Kennedy, two people with the power of enforcement, helped write the poster message and are supporting the program.

The program has received a significant cash contribution from The Westfield shoppingtowns (owners of Valley Fair and Oakridge Malls), and is also supported by Waste Management, Pacific Bell, Valley Transportation Authority, Century Theaters, Transportation Displays Inc., Empire Broadcasting Corp. and Orloff/Williams & Co.
Sandy Sims

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Web extra to the June 10-16, 1999 issue of Metro.

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