Doylestown is one of the latest cities in a nationwide trend of aggressive prosecution of “chalk” offenders. Police departments across the country are cracking down on some of the hardest criminals out there, operating right in broad daylight: kids with sidewalk chalk.
The two Doylestown teenagers were drawing harmless pictures of a whale and sea turtles on the ground when police confronted them and cited them with vandalism. It was a summary offense and they would only have to pay fines if convicted, but after much public outrage and locals mocking the police the department decided to drop the charges. Police were worried that like a gateway drug, the teens would start out their career as chalk vandals, and then progress into harder media like spray-paint. After conducting an internal investigation, police determined that the charge was not appropriate, as sidewalk chalk costs next to nothing to remove…it just needs to rain.
The incident in Doylestown is not the only one in which people are being cited for their chalk drawings. Susan Mortensen, a 29 year-old mother from Virginia, was arrested and sentenced to 50 hours of community service for allowing her four year-old daughter to draw on a rock at a park. More 50 people in 17 cities over the past five years have gotten into legal trouble for decorating the ground. Numerous protestors have been arrested in the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations. In Los Angeles one of the arrests prompted the demonstrators to begin to riot, requiring riot police to calm the situation down. On the other side of the country, a Florida protestor spent 18 days in jail for his drawings.
Hopefully these instances of kids getting in trouble for being kids are isolated incidents and don’t become the norm. With policing becoming more and more aggressive, cops can be sending the wrong message to well-intentioned individuals.