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Fines may increase for littering, graffiti in Riverhead Town

Riverhead Town officials are considering big increases in fines for people who litter or graffiti buildings.

At last Thursday’s Town Board work session, officials discussed a proposal to increase the minimum fine for littering for both individuals and businesses.

The first change relates to the town code for littering and graffiti on private or public property, which has a current minimum fine of $50 and a maximum of $250. The proposed change would raise those to a $250 minimum and $1,000 maximum. The current code also imposes a potential of up to 15 days in jail and that would not change.

For retail and commercial establishments, the code currently has a $250 maximum fine for a first offense. The proposed increase would raise that to between $1,000 and $1,500. The penalty for a second offense would increase from the current maximum of $500 to between $1,500 and $2,500. For a third offense within an 18-month period, the increase goes from a $1,000 minimum to between $2,500 and $3,500.

“When it comes to graffiti, $50 doesn’t cover the cost to clean it up,” Councilman Ken Rothwell said. 

Councilman Bob Kern said some businesses in strip malls are not picking up litter.

“The purpose of this is to get it so that the cost of the fine is a cost to the business, and not a cost of doing business,” he said. 

He said there are a lot of businesses whose properties are “pristine.”

Councilman Tim Hubbard said he’d like to see the town give quarterly awards to businesses that keep their property clean. 

“Like a Hall of Fame,” he said. 

Mr. Kern said the town’s Litter Committee has also suggested something like that. 

Mr. Hubbard said he initially suggested a “Hall of Shame,” but the town attorneys recommended against that. 

As for graffiti violations, Town Attorney Erik Howard said in four years of prosecuting in Town Court, he’s only had about two cases involve graffiti. The town’s graffiti laws also allow  fines for possession of graffiti making tools such as aerosol cans.

Mr. Hubbard said that if someone’s property is graffitied, it’s still their responsibility to clean up.