2006_5_scratch1.jpg

Whoa! Looks like the MTA is poised to go buckwild on perpetrators of scratchiti. That's the fairly craptastic end of graffiti where people use sharp objects to scratch tags on subway windows and doors. The results look similar to etch-- that's where vandals use glass-etching fluid in shoe polish bottles to catch tags. Apparently the incidence of both kinds of graf is way up over the last year. Newsday reports:

The number of major subway graffiti hits, which require more than eight hours to clean, doubled last year to 101 from 52 in 2004, Lombardi said at the monthly NYC Transit committee meeting. Clean-up costs for the major hits jumped to $187,811 in 2005 from $87,798 the previous year.

Through May 15, the subway system has seen 72 major graffiti incidents in which $140,678 was spent scrubbing away the vandals' handiwork, according to transit officials. Most incidents occurred in Queens and Manhattan, with the F and L lines taking the most hits.

So far this year, police have made 122 graffiti-related arrests, compared to 110 for all of 2005. In this year's arrests, 44 of the suspects were younger than 16, and 58 were between 16 and 25.

Two solutions have been proposed. The first makes sense: adding mylar plastic shields on every subway window (about 25% of the cars already have it, but it'll cost $25m to do the rest). The second solution strikes us as a bit of an overreaction: installing closed-circuit video cameras in every train car. Nevermind the technical problems (who would watch all that footage?), the real problem is our civil-liberties: are we all willing to submit to constant videotaping just to keep subway windows clean?