It’s no secret that graffiti can be a problem for cities. But soon a greater emphasis on removing unwanted “artwork” from buildings and other structures in unincorporated Spokane County could happen.
Last week, county commissioners gave their blessing for staff members to prepare a new graffiti abatement ordinance – modeled after similar laws in the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley – for consideration.
On May 16, Eric Walker, graffiti abatement coordinator for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, told the commissioners that gang markings and tagging were on the rise in some areas. If the trend continues to grow, he said, property values and more vandalism could result.
“Graffiti vandals are elusive,” Walker said. “Very seldom are they caught.”
Last year, there were 1,173 cases of reported graffiti in Spokane County and only a fraction of the perpetrators arrested. For that reason, unfortunately, it often falls on the victim property owners to have to deal with the consequences by removing the graffiti quickly. Walker proposes an ordinance that would put more pressure on property owners “who let it stay there.”
Currently, Walker said he works with Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort personnel to keep graffiti in check in unincorporated areas of the county. He also works with Juvenile Court to have youth offenders paint over graffiti when appropriate.
Spokane Valley’s ordinance was passed in 2008 and requires that property owners remove graffiti from homes and businesses within 15 days of face a fine up to $500. Control efforts are part of the job of the city’s two code-enforcement officers.
Still, the effort is to work with property owners, Walker said, as they are the victims of the crime. Or, as Spokane Valley Mayor Richard Munson put it at the time of the law’s adoption, “We want to mitigate, not litigate.”
County Commissioner Mark Richard said any ordinance would have to apply equally to government and utility buildings, and graffiti would have to be cleaned just as quickly as on homes or businesses.
“One of my pet peeves is when we’re not adhering to our own code,” he said. “Whatever we do, we have to be prepared to live by it.”
Walker added that about 10 to 15 percent of all graffiti was gang-related, however that amount reached as high as 50 or 60 percent in certain neighborhoods that have a high concentration of gang activity.
Those who wish to report graffiti can do so by calling Crime Check at 456-2233.