Raising children is expensive, but most parents likely don’t factor in the cost of paying for their children’s misdeeds.
Teresa Betancourt is the second Lake Forest parent to be hit with a hefty bill in connection with gang-related graffiti. The Sheriff’s Department has accused Betancourt’s of tagging more than a dozen spots in town with gang-related graffiti.
In 2011, city officials passed an ordinance to make it easier to recoup costs associated with graffiti cleanup. In November, a Superior Court judge ordered Betancourt to pay more than $18,200. Her son is accused of tagging on residential and business walls, stop signs, utility boxes, poles and a tree.
The city enacted the ordinance after cleanup costs soared, hitting $183,000 in 2010.
In the first full calendar year after the law was implemented, the cost of graffiti removal dropped by roughly half, according to city records. Taggers tend to work in organized crews, sharing information, and the word appears to have gotten out, Silver said.
“I think there’s a very strong connection between the city’s action and the deterrent effect,” said Matt Silver, an attorney representing the city. “I think there is a correlation between the city’s strong stance against graffiti and the reduction we’re seeing.”
The city first sends taggers demand letters asking for restitution. If those are ignored, lawsuits are initiated, Silver said.
Since the ordinance was passed, the city has sent eight such letters. Five have resulted in settlements.
The Betancourt judgment is the second the city has won since the new ordinance went into effect.
In October 2012 Lake Forest parent Maria Gutierrez was fined $15,000.
Police said Gutierrez’s son tagged 23 times in the city, on utility poles, walls and fences, businesses on El Toro Road, and at Heroes Park and in the Ridge Route pedestrian tunnel. The incidents date back to April 2010.
The city is seeking $15,498 in another graffiti case.
No money from the pair of judgments has been secured yet, Silver said, but the city’s ordinance allows it to collect through the parent or teen’s salaries, as well as any property assets for 10 years.
“Those (judgments) are still in the early process of collection, but we fully expect to be paid,” Silver said. “We certainly anticipate recovering every penny.”
By SARAH de CRESCENZO/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.