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Justice: A Quicker Way to Prosecute Graffiti Criminals

October 09, 1994

Re: Culver City's New Anti-Graffiti Law

As a resident of Culver City I was very interested in the Culver City council's approval of a new anti-graffiti law. Like the council and other citizens, I am also very concerned about the spread of graffiti and the associated problems regarding offenses committed by juveniles.

However, the Culver City council apparently was unaware of the Los Angeles County Superior Court Juvenile Traffic Court, which, despite its name, is authorized to hear graffiti and other misdemeanor cases when the damage is less than $250 and the offender is younger than 18. As a part-time judicial officer for the court, I can attest it has made a difference in the lives of youthful graffiti offenders.

Instead of having the district attorney involved in Juvenile Traffic Court, the police need only write a ticket for the minor to appear in court. The closed court hearing is set promptly and the parent or legal guardian is required to attend. At the hearing the minor can plead guilty or request a trial. The minor is afforded all constitutional rights.

If the minor pleads or is found guilty, the judicial officer is authorized to impose 100 hours of community service, which is normally imposed, or a fine or other appropriate punishment.

Juvenile Traffic Court is not the magic solution to all the problems regarding juvenile crime. It is not designed to handle major crimes committed by juveniles, which should be left to the district attorney for prosecution. However, as to graffiti offenses and other lesser crimes, it is a quick, inexpensive avenue which I trust Culver City and other cities will explore.

THOMAS EDWARD WALL, Culver City

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