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      Proposed graffiti bill has harsher punishments for offenders

      Graffiti can be seen everywhere from highways to neighborhood streets and it is becoming a big problem in Rhode Island as the epidemic of defacing public buildings that was once seen mainly in large cities has now trickled down into the surround suburbs.

      So Senator Maryellen Goodwin is doing something about it, by sponsoring a bill that will enforce harsher punishment to offenders. The legislation says that first offenders will be charged with a misdemeanor and face a maximum fine of 500 dollars and a maximum sentence of 200 hours of community service and although a second offense is still a misdemeanor the punishment increases to a 1,000 dollar fine and 300 hours of community service. Offenders will be charged with a felony if caught for a third time and can face up to 2 years in jail.

      Senator Goodwin is excited about the progress that the proposal has made so far, with one of the most significant milestones coming Thursday when the state senate approved it unanimously.

      In the meantime, Goodwin is personally doing what she can to clean or paint over defaced property and she warns that areas with heavy graffiti suffer from what she calls "broken window syndrome," which means that If taggers see property defaced, they are more likely to add to it than find another place to go. The legislation now awaits a vote from the House of Representatives.