CTA’s new weapon in graffiti battle

The CTA is hoping that a new deterrent will hit home with graffiti taggers who are thinking about leaving their mark on transit property.

The agency is taking vandalism and graffiti defendants — or in the case of minors, their parents or legal guardians — to Cook County Circuit Court, officials said Tuesday.

The message to vandals for several years now has been that they face an increasing likelihood of arrest for criminal defacement of government property, as the direct result of thousands of surveillance cameras across the CTA system.

However, that alone hasn’t proven to be enough of a disincentive to rub out the CTA’s $1 million-a-year graffiti problem, officials said.

Anti-graffiti civil lawsuits against parents are the first of their kind filed by the CTA, using the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law, which authorizes “recovery of damages from parents or legal guardians’’ for up to $20,000 “due to the willful injury to person or property by minor children.’’

The CTA is seeking to recover the cost of graffiti clean-up and repairs of rail equipment, any lost revenue caused by its equipment being out of service, court costs and attorney fees, officials said.

“Unlike in criminal court, where it is left up to judges to decide whether to order restitution, the civil lawsuits allow us to recoup all the costs related to the damage,’’ said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase. She said the CTA is relying on state law rather than city ordinances because only attorneys representing the city can file cases under the city’s administrative hearing process.

The CTA recently filed four lawsuits totaling $13,109 against the parents or legal guardians of eight minors, ages 14 to 17, all charged with misdemeanor criminal defacement to property, officials said.

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