If you're caught creating graffiti in Hesperia, the city will make you pay -- literally.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Hesperia City Council voted unanimously to pursue civil action against taggers and others who deface property.

"I'm just very pleased," said Councilwoman Rita Vogler. "I've been waiting for this to come forward for some time."

"We can start collecting restitution for the costs that graffiti generates," city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy said Wednesday. "In addition to [the normal code enforcement process], it would become a civil issue, which in turn could put a lien on their house."

Graffiti defendants who don't own houses aren't off the hook, either, as the city would pursue civil judgments against those found guilty that would continue to recover the expenses from future earnings.

In 2006, the city spent more than $150,000 to clean up graffiti, and the city's graffiti abatement crew has been even busier since then: The crew answered 7,694 calls between March 2007 and February 2008, a jump of 40 percent over the year before. (Hesperia's population only grew 6.5 percent during the same period.)

The new ordinance also expanded the definition of what qualifies as graffiti the city is concerned with, now including "flood control channels, landscaping, just some of those things that, in the traditional sense, aren't included," said Malloy.

"We're trying to incorporate as much public property as we can. We want that included."

The next meeting of the Hesperia City Council will be held on July 15 at 6:30 p.m. in Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.