JOHNNY FLORES AND AMBER AMAYA/Coachella Uninc
Coachella — Adults and youth interviewed by Coachella Unincorporated support the city’s recent decision to fine parents of minors who are accused of vandalizing public and private property.
“I think Coachella fining parents will result in a positive way for my community because vandalism and graffiti is ugly and unnecessary,” Isaac Arreola, 16, said. “I feel the fines will make [young people] think twice before doing it again.”
Earlier this month, the city filed a civil lawsuit against two families whose children are accused of committing 19 acts of vandalism during April 2014. The city is seeking $6,130 from the parents of the accused minors in an effort to help cover the cost of repairing the damaged public and private properties.
“I think it’s a good idea because it’s a good lesson for parents to learn how to better raise their children,” Sonia Villareal, who has lived in Coachella for more than 10 years, said. “I get angry because I’ve been to new buildings here in Coachella, and it’s only a matter of months or days after the buildings are open till they are vandalized, and there’s graffiti in the bathrooms.”
Another Coachella resident, Mike Lopez, said while he agrees with the city’s decision to hold parents responsible for their children’s actions, he thinks the fined amount might be too much for parents to pay.
“I think it’s a good idea because the parents have to take responsibility for their kids, but it’s a little extreme. They can’t pay that; how are they going to pay that kind of money? This is a poor neighborhood,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the city should consider alternative options, like community service, for families who cannot pay the fine.
Because the suspects are minors, the city cannot file a lawsuit against them, which is why the parents are fined. But the accused minors are still processed in the legal system, according to Lt. Misty Reynolds, the assistant police chief of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in Coachella.
“The parents are held accountable for when the crime is committed,” Reynolds said. “So if the crime was committed while they were a minor, it is being processed at the current age.”
Coachella can legally seek up to $25,000 in damages, even if the damages exceed that amount, according to Maritza Martinez, director of Public Works for Coachella. But the city’s main goal is to prevent vandalism, and to encourage the community to care for the city in order to improve the quality of life.
Long-time Coachella resident, Virgilio Marinez said he is tired of seeing his neighborhood vandalized. But he said he is hopeful that the city’s actions will reduce the amount of graffiti and will help discourage youth from vandalizing public or private properties.
“It’s sad to see areas, either private or public, vandalized for what seems like every 15 feet. It’s a never ending cycle, but hopefully this new lawsuit sends a message out that it is not okay to vandalize and you will be punished,” Marinez said.
If you see someone in the process of vandalizing property call 911. Call 1-888-600-6260, the graffiti hotline, to report the location of graffiti. If you own property has been vandalized call the Coachella Corporate Yard at 760-501-8100 in order to receive a free five-gallon bucket of paint in order to abate it yourself.
Reporting contributed by: Karla Martinez