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Germany

Government, Opposition Split Over Graffiti

To some it’s art, to others it’s a nuisance. To the opposition conservatives in Germany’s lower chamber of parliament, the Bundestag, graffiti is nothing less than a crime that needs a tough punishment. Every year sprayers destroy some 200 to 250 million euros worth of property. It is estimated that in Berlin alone 3,000 to 4,000 sprayers are active, many of whom are also involved in organized crime and drugs. A joint proposal put forth on Thursday by the Christian Democrat Union, the Christian Social Union and the Free Democrats calls for imposing tougher penalties than the fines and three years imprisonment currently on the books. But the Social Democrats and Greens argue that changing the law is simply "symbolic politics" and does nothing to change reality, which is that nationwide only about 30 percent of sprayers are actually apprehended. "It is not the punishment that deters sprayers, but rather the risk of being caught," said SPD politician Michael Hartmann, who wants to see more effort put into catching the violators.