Yesterday, New York’s City Council launched a new offensive against graffiti writers and legitimate legal etching enthusiasts, approving legislation requiring store owners to keep files on anyone who buys glass etching acid. Acid dealers that don’t record customers’ personal info, including their name, address, as well as the date and quantity of their purchase, and make those records available to police for a year, could be fined up to $250. In a bid to discourage vandalism, city law already prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing the etching acid more commonly used for art and industrial purposes.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., the bill’s sponsor that failed to pass a law requiring people be licensed to buy the glass-eating liquid, claims, “This will have a deterrent effect if people know their identification will be kept on record.”

In addition to questions about how these records will be managed and disposed of, there are serious concerns by the NYCLU and others about the bill’s civil rights implications. Councilmember Charles Barron, who voted against the bill with Melissa Mark, calls it “an intrusion into the lives of artists,” and declares that, “We cannot turn this into a police state to stop graffiti.” As etching acid can still be acquired countless ways, even brewed at home, it’s more likely the new law will generate a lot of personal information about home hobbyists, instead of curbing the sort of vandalism photographed below.

Top photo by Ari Moore