I recently posted a blog column about the increasing appearance of graffiti in national and state parks — and the need to ramp up punishments to deter this defacing of our natural wonders and wilderness. The last story concerned Andre Saraiva, an internationally known graffiti artist, who “tagged” and bragged about his own defacing of nature. He spray painted a boulder at the Joshua Tree National Park. Now authorities are looking for a teen who spray painted a rock face in Idaho to impress a girl and get her to go with him to the school prom. It should not be too different to investigate this particular crime, but the question remains the punishment that should be meted out.
The teenager painted the message “Destiny, Prom?” on the side of the Black Cliffs, in a popular rock climbing spot in Boise. Such acts remain misdemeanors, though that can result in up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000.
As I noted earlier, there is a need to increase punishment to overcome a lower detection rate for these crimes — the relationship between punishment and detection is at the heart of deterrence theory. In my view, people have to go to jail more regularly to deter this crime. I feel the same way about the two Americans who recently defaced the Roman Colosseum. I also strongly believe that the Italians and other government need to release the names of such people.
However, the fact that this is a teenager would weigh in the balance. I still believe that a short jail time might be instructive but I draw a difference between a stupid, love-struck kid and a vanity-driven adult like Saraiva. Even for the teen, there should be a sanction (at least a long community service at the park in cleaning up areas) and a heavy fine if we are going to deter this crime. The victim is not simply the public but the ultimately voiceless victim in nature itself. Absent a serious deterring punishment, this type of defacement will continue — fueled by adolescent carelessness and, in the case of Saraiva, all-consuming narcissistic vanity.
By the way, Destiny, this guy is a total loser. You have better options, even if it means taking your Dad.
Kudos: Professor Roger Schechter
Source: NY Post