New restrictions on spray paint sales

In 2006, 311 reported 13,596 graffiti cases in the city of Minneapolis, averaging 37 cases a day.

Local businesses will likely face new restrictions on spray paint sales as the city works to curb graffiti. An amendment to a previous city ordinance would require local businesses to keep spray paint within view of store employees, either through direct sight or video surveillance equipment.

If those requirements can't be met, stores must keep the products out of customers' reach, either locked up or behind the counter. Minneapolis already restricts the sale of spray paint to minors.

"I think it's going to be a good program and that the business community will get on board with funding the grant and following the law," said Robert Hills, executive director of the National Council to Prevent Delinquency.

The amended ordinance will go before the City Council Friday.

The National Council to Prevent Delinquency is a representative of the retail industry that worked on a compromise with the city.

Last year, the council attempted to force retailers to lock up aerosol containers, but local business objected to the cost of locks and cases.

"The original bill didn't acknowledge contemporary loss prevention techniques and the new one does," Hills said.

Minneapolis Police spokeswoman Lt. Amelia Huffman said graffiti cases involving defamation of property or on-sight witnesses are often reported to the police department, but the majority of graffiti calls are reported to 311.

In 2006, 311 received 13,596 graffiti reports in Minneapolis, averaging 37 cases a day. An additional 907 claims were reported directly to police.

The National Council to Prevent Delinquency gave the city a one-time, $42,500 grant to help enforce the regulation of spray paint sales.

Ricardo Cervantes, deputy director of licenses and consumer services, said the grant will be used for compliance checks with local retailers to ensure that they are obeying the ordinance and that they refuse to sell to individuals under the age of 18.

Cervantes said the city is aware of 52 businesses that sell spray paint.

The ordinance focuses on regulation, but also on increased information.

"All of the stores that we are aware of that are selling paint currently have been notified of the ordinance," said Cervantes. "We are trying to make sure that everyone is aware that this ordinance is coming around."

As part of the grant, the city will also provide packets of information on preventing theft and underage sales to stores that have been identified as spray-paint retailers.

While some large business will feel the effects of the ordinance, the majority of the impact will be on stores that carry a limited supply of aerosols.

"The volume of sales under this (ordinance) will go down somewhat because people not willing to meet the standard will stop carrying the product," Hills said.

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