Detroit graffiti removal program makes perpetrators clean up

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The city of Detroit is waging war on graffiti cleaning up more buildings than ever before.

They are also sending a serious message to anyone caught "tagging" a building. Do the crime and you could face a very humiliating and public punishment.

"I got caught spray painting graffiti," said Christian Roman. "Cops came to my door and took me in for questioning and I gave myself up."

Christian Roman is finding out the hard way, graffiti goes on a lot easier than it comes off.

"Stupid acts," he said. "Stupid acts are what it was. I regret it all."

In 2014 he was caught on camera spray painting his nickname on the walls of the abandoned Hanneman Elementary school.

"I wasn't really thinking at all at the moment," Roman said. "Now, definitely. I'm way smarter now. I've got a family to live for. I just want to make my mom proud."

Christian had to do jail time, pay $3,000 in fees and wear a tether, on top of cleaning up.

According to the city, most offenders are coming in from the suburbs.

Jessica Parker, Detroit General Services
"The communities are trying hard to come back," said Jessica Parker, Detroit General Services. "Each district, all seven districts, are working hard to do that. And the mayor wants people to know, who don't live in the city especially, you can't come to our city and vandalize it."

And there's been a crackdown on prosecutions, with 50 people recently facing felonies.

"Is it art, some people may look at it and think it's art," said Sgt. Rebecca McKay. Detroit police. "But if you don't have permission, it is vandalism. And it can rise to the level of a felony crime."

But the city encourages graffiti art too; it just has to first be registered through the city of Detroit's website.

"If they get caught they're going to go through exactly what I went through," Roman said. "Probably worse."

Christian has different priorities now.

"I have a 4-year-old son," he said. "I don't have time to be writing on a wall. I wasted my whole life practically doing that. Honestly I just want to get a job and start working. Support my family."