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Florida bill would increase penalties for vandalism on military memorials

Florida bill would increase penalties for vandalism on military memorials

Harsher punishments could be coming for vandals who target war memorials. A bill titled the "Soldiers' and Heroes' Monuments and Memorials Protection Act" is making its way through the Florida legislature.

"We're in favor of anything that calls attention to the memorials that call attention to remember and honor those who sacrifice their lives in defense of the freedoms that well all enjoy today," Captain Butch Hansen, president of the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation said.

The park on Bayfront Parkway is a serene and beautiful sight, but it has had its bad days. Hansen said it has seen its fair share of vandalism.

"This entire memorial was pushed over," he said pointing to the Purple Heart Memorial.

It was lucky to only make off with a few chips. In a separate vandalism incident, the soldiers in the World War II monument were hit with paintballs.

Senate Bill 418 and a companion bill, House Bill 529, would make the punishment a third-degree felony. That means vandals could face up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.

For the most part, current vandalism penalties are levied based on the cost of fixing the damage. If the damage is less than $200, it is a second-degree misdemeanor. It would be a first-degree misdemeanor if that damage is more than $200 and less than $1,000. If it is more than $1,000, it is a third-degree felony.

Vandalism to places of worship, like mosques and churches, is also a third-degree felony.

"Vandalism is not a good thing pretty much anywhere," Josh Carver said. "I'd say there are some things that are sacred."

That is why he is in favor of the bill. Others WEAR-TV spoke with agree that vandalism to memorials should be held to a higher standard.

"They should get really harsh punishments for that," Brittany Chinchar said. "People fight for us every day and it's not right to vandalize stuff that's for them."

We asked what people on Twitter thought. In a poll of 100 people, 70 percent said that vandalism at memorials should carry stiffer punishment.

"It's our country's eternal responsibility to remember and honor those that have borne the battle on our behalf and that's what these memorials are about," Hansen said.

If the bill makes it to law, it would take effect on October 1.

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