In August 2019, Christopher Carini was just months away from being elected the Hempstead town councilman in the 5th Councilmanic District. Carini, 45, a former New York City and Port Authority police officer, was involved in the community as a civilian then, albeit a very proactive one. He was vice president of the Wantagh-Seaford Homeowners Association, and took on a range of issues in his typical energetic fashion.
One problem that Carini battled constantly was the defacing of buildings and overpasses in Wantagh and Seaford with graffiti. “[For] over a month now, we’re working on [having] the graffiti on the overpass of Seamans Neck Road [removed], and still have no time frame, because we’re told graffiti removal isn’t a priority,” Carini told the Herald last August. “Between the money we pay in property taxes and for the LIRR, it’s way too much for our community to look like this.”
Fast-forward 12 months, and Carini has again taken aim at graffiti vandalism in his area, but this time as an official, rallying a group of civilians and elected colleagues to form the Town of Hempstead’s new Graffiti Watch Task Force.
“I was elected as Councilman in order to maintain our excellent quality of life here . . . and that includes fighting the recent uptick in vandalism tied to instances of illegal graffiti,” Carini said in a statement as he rolled out the new initiative. “I am elated to have the support of the community in this endeavor, along with many local leaders who have stepped forward to volunteer their time in the fight to preserve the town we know and love.”
The task force of 18, including Carini, will monitor graffiti in the town’s southeastern corner. Town Supervisor Donald Clavin is partnering with Carini in the effort. “Between his storied career in law enforcement, service as a civic leader, and history of always getting the job done, I can think of no better person to take the lead on tackling this issue than Chris Carini,” Clavin said in a statement.
Sightings of graffiti in the town have increased, including multiple taggings of “D.O.E.” spotted in the past few weeks outside Mandalay Elementary School on Bayview Avenue in Wantagh.
Under state penal law, defacing property with graffiti is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Town penal law lists a fine of up to $250 or and/or imprisonment for up to 15 days for each offense, and there is a separate town civil penalty as large as $5,000.
That was something else Carini wanted to change. “On July 28, the Town Board voted for the fine to be doubled from $5,000 to $10,000,” he told the Herald.
The next step was selecting the right task force members. Carini said he sought involved community members “who represent a diverse array of backgrounds, including civic, religious and business community leaders.” One of them is Marilynne Rich, second vice president of the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce.
“Well, we have seen more graffiti pop up in Wantagh and Seaford,” Rich said. “I’m the social media person for the chamber, so I’m on social media a lot. If there’s something on there that [Carini] hasn’t seen, I’ll show him.”
Carini has recruited people with different strengths and focuses. Although Rich’s may be her social-media savvy, she contends that everyone is fulfilling the task force’s primary role first. “We are the eyes and ears,” she said. “If we see something, we make sure to email the Town of Hempstead to let them know."
Carini and the town ask that residents report graffiti by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This is an opportunity for all people of good will to come together in our mission to preserve the communities we call home,” he said. “We’ve already hit the ground running in our mission to fight for our hometown, and I look forward to continuing that mission as we move forward.”