The Arizona Republic
By KEVIN PANG
The Arizona Republic
Lawmakers are hoping to give juvenile ruffians with a penchant for spray cans something more than a slap on the wrist.
Of course, the legislators are saying it’ll hurt them more than it’ll hurt the kids.
A bipartisan group of legislators have lined up behind House Bill 2482, which would allow neighborhood associations to take action against crimes – specifically, graffiti and drive-by shootings committed by juveniles.
The measure received preliminary approval from the House yesterday, and a formal vote could take place this week.
The bill adds drawing or inscribing a message without permission of a homeowner and discharging a firearm at an occupied structure to the crimes that allow a neighborhood association to invoke victims’ rights. It also specifies the provisions apply to crimes committed by adult and juvenile offenders.
Rusty Childress, owner of Childress Automall at 23rd Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix, sees crime such as graffiti, tire slashing or vandalism on a weekly basis. Many of these offenses remain unsolved, and he said it’s easy for nuisance crimes to get lost in the shuffle.
“There isn’t much in the system to stay up to date on the status of the crime, once it’s thrown over the fence from the police to the prosecutors,” Childress said.
Legislators don’t expect this bill to affect the state budget. They say the motivation is to raise a red flag for such crimes, so the law enforcement officers could take more decisive action. “I think it raises the level of attention by police so that it doesn’t fall into the normal, mundane criminal activity,” said Rep. John Nelson, R-Glendale, who co-sponsored the bill.
At the forefront of nuisance crime fighting is a coalition of business owners, neighborhood activists and police officers. Donna Neill, an advocate of the bill, is a co-founder of the Neighborhood Activists Inter-Linked Empowerment Movement. She said many of those hit are the mom and pop shops, and taking off work to go through the court system would be devastating to their businesses.
“We have to become partners in fighting off the little hoodlums,” Neill said.
Residential areas are also affected, and some homes in the west Phoenix area where Neill lives have been targeted repeatedly.
“A lot of times the fear level escalates to the point where (homeowners) can’t get out their front door,” she said.
A similar bill passed several years ago that placed offenders of chop shops, gangs and prostitution under the same legal jurisdiction.