Instead of finding the culprit, the city is fining the victims of the crime.
It may seem backwards to fine the victims of a hate crime, and that’s because it absolutely is. The city of Stamford in Connecticut has decided to fine the couple six weeks after the crime took place because they have yet to paint over it.
It all started one morning, the Saturday just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day to be exact, when Lexene Charles went outside to get in his car. He was shocked to see that an anti-black racial slur had been spray painted onto his garage and immediately called for Heather Lindsay, his longtime partner, to come outside.
Charles, who is black, and Lindsay, who is white, have refused to paint over or clean the graffiti until the culprit is caught, which is what sparked the city to slap fines on them. Three weeks after the incident, the city issued a citation for blight that carries a fine of $100 for every day that the graffiti stays up.
The couple said that they have been advised by their lawyer to keep the pressure on the police department in charge of the investigation so that they don’t “just cover it up and sweep it under the table as they have done in the past.”
The pair has been living in the house for nearly 20 years and this isn’t the first run-in they’ve had with racially-charged words directed at them nor is it their first time battling a citation. Lindsay said that their home has been vandalized several times and that when they first moved into the neighborhood in 1999, several people yelled racial slurs at Charles. They were also told on many occasions that Charles’ presence was reducing property values.
Credit: Christopher Capozziello/The New York Times
“I cannot believe it. At this time, someone could write this. Those times were supposed to be way back in the ‘60s and I was born in ‘61,” 56-year-old Lexene Charles told the Stamford Advocate. Since the incident, he said, “I don’t sleep good,” adding that he now slept near the front door with a hammer. “I’m always looking out the window. I’ve never done that before.”
Investigators have said that they are doing everything they can to pinpoint the culprit but in the meantime they, along with the mayor, have offered their help in cleaning up the graffiti. However, with the help of the media, the couple are hoping that the added pressure will force the police department to take action on one of the few suspects that were originally questioned.
The whole issue might come to a head in another legal matter that the couple is facing when they ignored citations in 2012 regarding debris on their property after their house flooded. The fines against them continue to be racked up and have so far reached over $130,000, despite the issue being taken care of years ago. The city is using this as grounds to bring the couple to a foreclosure trial in early March and intend to seize the house.
The city has the upper hand in the upcoming trial but Lindsay and Charles plan to seek out the former mayor, who promised them in 2013 that the city would not attempt to take their home away from them. Though the trial should be their primary focus, they refuse to back down with the graffiti issue as a matter of principle because the racist remarks towards them have not yielded in all the years prior when they tried to ignore the vandalism and comments.
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