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SANTA ANA : Student Press Corps Hears Graffiti's Toll

March 25, 1993|JON NALICK

Reporters scribbled, cameras clicked, and city officials talked tough about how they plan to wage war on the growing scourge of graffiti vandalism.

The scene Wednesday morning might have been an ordinary press conference were it not for the fact that the members of the assembled press corps were not old enough to vote.

During the hourlong news conference, about 40 student reporters and photographers from the Santa Ana Unified School District's intermediate and high school newspapers quizzed city officials, including Mayor Daniel H. Young and Police Chief Paul M. Walters, on policies concerning graffiti.

Held at school district headquarters, the press conference was designed to get out the city's anti-graffiti message and also give student journalists an opportunity to interview officials as part of a real news event.

"I was surprised that the mayor was here. That means it's pretty important," said Itritia Lewis, 14, an eighth-grade reporter for the Carr Tribune at Carr Intermediate School. Lewis said she hopes her article will help educate students about the consequences of tagging. During the news conference, the mayor said graffiti removal costs the city up to $1.2 million a year, money that could otherwise be spent to improve libraries and recreation opportunities and add parks and police officers.

"It is a tragic, tragic waste of money," Young told the group. Although many students think tagging is the "in" thing to do, "It's not cool. It's a crime.

"We're at a crisis point, folks, and we need your help. We need you to tell the community that graffiti will erode the quality of life" in Santa Ana, the mayor said.

Walters emphasized the cost of tagging to the person caught and convicted of doing it, as well as to that person's family. If convicted, a tagger younger than 18 faces a $250 fine, in addition to the cost of cleaning up the graffiti, at least 200 hours of community service, and a one-year suspension of a driver's license. Parents may be required to help fix their children's damage as well.

Maurice Lara, 17, a reporter for the Maverick at Mountain View High School, where he is a senior, said that the press conference will go a long way to getting out the message that graffiti will not be tolerated.

"Basically, they just want things taken care of, and the best way to get things taken care of is to get through to students," he said.

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