Lake Forest Graffiti Vandals' Mother Fined $15,000

Mayor Kathryn McCullough says the ruling "serves as a warning to parents."

The Lake Forest mother of a serial graffiti tagger has been fined $15,000, according to this story in the Orange County Register.

Maria Gutierrez, the parent of the teenage boy who was caught 23 times marking up walls, businesses, utility poles and fences around the city with gang graffiti, was slapped with the fine by an Orange County Superior Court judge on Oct. 15.

The ruling is the first since city officials passed a tougher anti-graffiti ordinance last year that makes parents liable for damages and costs.

Other cases under the rejiggered ordinance are pending.

Mayor Kathryn McCullough voiced her support of the ruling. From the story:

"Graffiti is not a harmless crime – it is an act of vandalism that negatively impacts our community," Mayor Kathryn McCullough said. "When we passed the ordinance a year ago, we wanted to give the city more tools to combat graffiti and recover costs for removal, and we're glad to see it's working as intended. I hope this case serves as a warning to parents, guardians and youth about the consequences of committing acts of graffiti."

What do you think of the judge's ruling? Is a $15,000 fine against the mother too harsh a penalty?



Andromeda November 04, 2012 at 05:51 AM
There is a tremendous amount of graffitti in Lake Forest. But the City is very good about sending out a crew within a couple days to clean it off the walls and fences, of course, at a cost to the taxpayers. Maybe hitting the parents in the pocketbooks for the actions of their kids will help slow it down. It's fine time they did something. The costs to the Lake Forest taxpayers over the last decade must have been tremendous - in the hundred of thousands of dollars. This is one good thing the Council has done. It just took them too long to do it. But better late than never, I guess.
Charles November 04, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Lake Forest property values just declined 6.9%.
Lady Golfnut November 04, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I agree with fining to help cover the cleanup costs (if that's where it goes). $15,000 seems a little steep, but more importantly community service should also be included for the offender. Fining the parents doesn't teach the offender anything.
RichOalexander November 04, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Maybe he's our next great Tattoo Artist??? we can make a cable tv show???
Jim Guccione November 04, 2012 at 03:48 PM
How old is the tagger? Some jail time would help also. How about making the gang banger clean up his own mess????
RichOalexander November 04, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Maybe he's our next great Tattoo Artist??? we can make a cable tv show???
Terry Ake November 04, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Excellent start ...... hopefully the city will not spend $20,000 trying to collect ......cleaning up their mess would help ..... 23 times! seems we are alittle slow on taking care of matters.
Caryn Maldonado November 04, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I agree with Lady Golfnut and Las Rocas. It may seem like a good idea to hurt the parent because then one would assume the parent will get their kid in line but this may not be reality. An out of control teen has usually lost respect for the parent and any discussions of the behavior will be fruitless. I know because I had an out of control teen. By the time things are really bad, the parent-child relationship had already broken down. The kids could care less that the parent has to pay for the crime. Professional help is usually needed form outside of the home. Community service is a great idea because that is a direct consequence ordered from an outside service and not coming from the parent. Furthermore, $15,000 is a huge amount of money. If they can afford it that's one thing but It's more than likely that the financial situation for this family isn't good. How is taking money from them going to help? That could go toward mandatory family counseling, which would be far more helpful to getting to the real issues of what is going on with that kid.
Pete Deutschman November 04, 2012 at 06:25 PM
I am all for this agressive stance but agree that the youth should be held responsible for his actions. I suggest, Mom as guarantee with youth "working off" via paid work community service. The parent puts the money in city managed escrow earning interest for 3 years or until the effort is paid off by the youth, whichever is first
Andromeda November 04, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I disagree, Pete. The kid should not get paid for his actions. You are rewarding bad behavior. And mom needs to keep a closer eye on him. The fine will help motivate her. I assume that the kid will be prosecuted under the juvenile justice system. They surely aren't going to let him walk and just punish his mother. I assume there is much more to the story than what we read in this article.
Andromeda November 04, 2012 at 06:34 PM
The taxpayers should not get stuck with the costs to remove the grafitti, Caryn. That should be the responsibility of the kid's family. Not us. Why should we pay for the damage when we know who did it?
Pete Deutschman November 04, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Andromeda, my assumption is that there is more of a punishment than the fine as well. The fine has to be directly attributed to the action of the youth with fiscal accountability to the parent. He is not getting "paid" for his crime. He is getting paid for community service (rather than being with friends or on the street) but the money goes to transfer the liability away from the parent overtime. Everyone gets what they deserve. City= reimbursement. Parent= support Kid=responsibility
Tennickly November 04, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I say jail for the kid. Maybe even prison.
Andromeda November 04, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Pete, IMO the parents of children who do this type of thing are just as responsible as their kids. If I ran the system the parents would not only pay for the damage, the parents would be cleaning grafitti off the walls too. Community SERVICE should be just that. FREE service to the community. Not PAID service. See the difference? Why should they be paid or reimbursed for the crime? I've witnessed grafitti crimes. I know how the perpetrators are given hand slaps. Until there are real consequences for vandalizing other people's properties nothing will change. This new ordinance is a good start. As long as it's enforced and applied equally I have no problem with it.
Jack November 04, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I hope that you mean to make the kid do the community service at $8 per hour. Sometimes the Parents will do the C.S. so the "Little Darling" kids life won't be impacted.!!
Julius November 04, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Good for them! We can stop and control graffiti vandalism only with a comprehensive effort that includes graffiti laws that provide harsh penalties against graffiti vandals. As documented at www.DefacingAmerica.com , we don't have an art problem. We have a graffiti vandalism problem. Marking up stop signs, lamp posts, retaining walls, buildings and such to promote your tag name isn't art, and it isn't very kind to your neighbors either. Art offers us a choice. We can see art at a museum or gallery and we can even buy art for our homes. That is American - choice is involved. Graffiti vandalism provides no choice. A tiny selfish group damage and deface our community for their fun and visibility. Look at the comments to this news story and you won't have to be a graffiti expert to see how much people hate being vandalized.
Charles November 04, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I sell spray paint and I think all graffiti should be legal.
Homer November 04, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Pretty sad when people start calling vandalism of another persons' property - art. If you want to express your "artistic talent", then do it on your own personal property. Public and private property are not your canvas to express freedom of speech. Also sad is the fact that many of these kids start tagging by the age of 14. Many also have parole officers assigned to them for prior infractions. Why? Because they have no respect; for their parents or any other person - other than the older gang members who they are attempting to impress with their acts of defiance and vandalism. These juveniles also become the runners for the gang drug trade. And yes, it is here in Lake Forest.
Jim Gardner November 04, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Hi Julius I agree with your sentiments. Graffiti is part of the urban blight problem and unless graffiti is dealt with quickly and effectively, the same areas that suffer from graffiti soon discover an increase in littering and then robbery. There is considerable research on this.
Robert Bombalier November 05, 2012 at 03:16 AM
I am not certain that $15k is the right thing to do. I assume there is a limited father figure or perhaps a bad one. Not sure if the $15k would put them in the streets, given the economy. A fine is good, accountability for her kid is very important, but the kid needs a swift and firm kick up the backside. Enroll the kid in a martial arts program to get some discipline and improve his character traits. Also the kid will have an opportunity to be around some positive males that show leadership qualities. The kid needs a job ... when not at school have him spend the next 23 months "on-call". So when there is any kind of vandalism, littler, etc. .... put him to work. If he does it again, add 24 months to his learning. If he is associated with a gang, make a firm example of him. We can not allow organized parasites to grow.
Lake Forest Resident November 05, 2012 at 03:50 AM
I am happy to see the city is tough on grafitti. I have lived in Lake Forest for 25 years and in the last year I have seen more and more grafitti. I believe parents need to do a better job in raising kids, so I do hold them responsible. However, I do agree depending on the age of the boy it may be too late and the parent or parents won't be able to stop him especially if he is in a gang. So again, depending on the age, I believe that the boy needs to pay for it rather than the parents. He should be given some juvenille hall time and placed on parole and have to do community service doing some type of hard labor for the city. And in addition take his cell phone, laptop, car or anything of value to him to help in the compensation of the $15,000.
Mason November 05, 2012 at 05:09 AM
I consider Mr. Nick's campaign signs on every corner to be as bad as 'grafitti'. My fear is that our City ends up paying to remove them all. Since this is probably the wave of the future, hopefully the new City Council will devise some new rules on signs and ways to force candidates to clean up after themselves.
Cindy Piel November 05, 2012 at 11:13 AM
I think it's safe to assume that the tagger is a minor since it is the parent that is being fined. I applaud our City Council and OC courts for taking this action, but am also concerned that it may be difficult to collect. I know that there are cities that require taggers to perform community service hours cleaning up graffiti. I think a combination of a fine and community service would be best. The fine should cover the cities cost of materials needed for the clean-up (including personnel to supervise) and having these kids clean-up their own mess is more of a lesson for them then making their parent(s) write a check. Also, . . .. 23 TIMES!!!! Juvenile or not, there should be stiffer punishment for this. There comes a point when a slap on the wrist isn't sufficient (I think that was about 21 or 22 offenses ago!).
Cindy Piel November 05, 2012 at 11:18 AM
Seriously?!!! Tell that to my neighbor's teenager who recently had his car vandalized with tagging that included racial slurs and symbols! Maybe you can reimburse him and his family for the money they had to spend on cleaning materials to salvage his paint job and for the time they and a few of us neighbors spent cleaning up the mess!
Cindy Piel November 05, 2012 at 11:29 AM
I agree Homer. I also do not consider "tagging" art, it is more like an animal urinating on every other bush to mark it's territory. True graffiti can be artistic and some of those people have a real talent, but artistic expression & freedom of speech doesn't give anyone the right to start spray painting property that doesn't belong to you. I wish more people were as aware as you are of what's going on with our youth. There are too many parents that think, because of where we live, that don't have to worry about issues such as drugs and gangs.
Cindy Piel November 05, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Mason, I don't think it's as bad as graffiti or tagging, but agree that it's not attractive (and Mr. Nick isn't the only one with signs all over). Since our fair city has strick signage regulations on our businesses, there should be regulations for campaign signs also (suggestions: time limits for displaying, limits for number of signs put up, and fines for any signs still remaining up after election day).
Susan November 05, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I feel the fine is more then fair plus I also think the kid needs to do community service on top of that to really learn a lesson. And if I were his mother I would also make my son pay me back the $15,000 no matter how long it took. The problem with so many in this younger generation is everything is handed to them and they feel entitled. Thus the name "Entitlement Generation". Trust me if it comes out of their pocket it makes more of an impact. I wonder how taggers would feel if someone came into their home/yard and spray painted all over their personal space? It comes down to respect of others including other's property. Without respect graffiti is what you get. I am glad Lake Forest is getting tougher on it.
Caryn Maldonado November 06, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Replying to Andromeda's reply to me: I don't like the fact that taxpayers have to pay for the clean up either. I think the parents and tagger need to clean it up at their own expense. That is great community service. Everyone wants to punish the tagger but how does fining the parent do that exactly? Maybe if the parent has been unwilling to acknowledge the problem and has not cooperated with the city, then perhaps this financial hit is necessary but I'm not so sure. The city can fine the parent but the tagging will not stop unless the family dynamics are confronted. Like I said before, at this point the kid does not care what the parent has to go through. How does a parent stop a teen who has no regard for authority? One can take away all privileges, however that will not stop a determined teen. The thing most people don't understand is that this is not the average kid who would be ashamed of themselves and their behavior. There could be undiagnosed ADHD or personality disorders, drug use or child abuse involved. If the city is really serious about stopping the graffiti then pass a law to arrest these kids and send them to juvenile court. That is one way to force these kids to see this is not a joke. I think that mandatory family counseling would be a better way to find solutions.
MisturChips November 06, 2012 at 09:52 PM
I agree, Terry - There is no place for graffiti 'artistry' in our town - Makes me wonder if there should be, but then I remember the story of what happened at ~3AM to the budding artist in our community. It seems a group of folks out walking their dogs at night stumbled upon the future-picasso, and he ended up getting quite a beating / painting. The graffiti mysteriously stopped after that. If the City DOES spend $20k to collect, hopefully the judge simply tacks it on to the invoice for the parents to pay. Nothing like the scorn of a mother. I'm sure the kid will hear about it for years to come! Can't afford it? Work it off in community service (parent and child).
James Robert Reade November 13, 2012 at 04:56 AM
City of Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, are you listening?! If Lake Forest Mayor Kathryn McCullough can hold culpable parents accountable so can you and the City of Anaheim! I have brought forth public comment on parental responsibility laws for a year now and your administration has failed to act! Are you going to let a woman upstage you! James Robert Reade, Anaheim


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