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New Campaign, Free Hotline Target Graffiti

Vandalism: Mayor and transit officials promise that any tagging will be erased within 24 hours. Funds will come from MTA budget.


Under a new anti-graffiti campaign launched Tuesday, any graffiti reported to a toll-free number, (800) 611-2489, will be removed within 24 hours.

That was the promise made by Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and transit officials gathered at Sierra Park Elementary School in El Sereno to kick off the campaign.

"Graffiti is something that makes people mad when they see it," Hahn told scores of children at the ceremony. "It's put there by people who don't like the neighborhood."

Appearing to support the drive was Los Angeles Galaxy soccer star Cobi Jones, who said he grew up in the city and believes graffiti "is very important to stop."

A three-month campaign sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Galaxy will use panels on the sides of buses.

John Catoe of the MTA said the agency spent more than $5 million last year repairing damage done by graffiti vandals, including etched bus and train windows, torn seats and other damage. The campaign will be financed from the agency's anti-vandalism budget.

"I want to send a message loud and clear to the vandals who get their kicks destroying our equipment," Catoe said. "You're hurting your family, friends and neighbors who depend on public transportation. You will get caught and you will pay."

Penalties for a first offense range from 12 months' summary probation to detention in a youth facility or up to 1,000 hours community service. Multiple offenders can be fined $450 and receive five days in jail or 2,000 hours of community service.

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