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24 years after proposing spray paint ban, Burke wants to relax it

Upset by the amount of graffiti in the city, Ald. Ed Burke in 1992 successfully pushed a ban on spray paint in Chicago. It remains in place, though Burke earlier this year raised the idea of relaxing it. | File photo

The sponsor of Chicago’s 24-year-old ban on spray paint wants to relax the law, allowing sales to adults and helping retailers in border wards that are losing business to the suburbs.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, agreed to propose the change to the groundbreaking ordinance he championed.

Since 1992, Chicago has had a law on the books that bans the sale of spray paint. The goal was to take away at least one of the tools that taggers use to vandalize buildings, streets and sidewalks with graffiti.

The revised ordinance, which Burke agreed to at the behest of Far Southwest Side Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), was introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. It would allow the sale of spray paint to customers 18 and older.

Chicago retailers that choose to sell spray paint, broad-tipped markers and etching equipment would be required to display them in an area “not accessible to the general public without employee assistance.” Those stores also would be required to post “cards in public view” that warn: “Vandalism is against the law and punishable by a fine of up to $2,500” and up to 30 days in jail.

In an apparent attempt to make the relaxed rules easier to swallow for those concerned that the changes would be an open invitation to taggers, Burke tossed in dramatically higher fines for minors found in possession of “graffiti implements” and adults who aid and abet them.

Minors would face a $500 fine for each offense and three times that amount if they’re caught more than once in the same year. They also would be required to perform community service.

Adults who help them procure “graffiti implements” would face fines ranging from $500 to $1,500 for each offense.

Workers from  Chicago Steets and Sanitation remove anti-Semitic graffiti in 2014.  |Sun-Times file photo
Workers from Chicago Steets and Sanitation remove anti-Semitic graffiti in 2014. |Sun-Times file photo