City struggles with repeat graffiti problem

August 1, 2008

By Jim Feehan

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Vandals repeatedly spray painted this fence along Newcastle Way earlier this year, prompting a City Council member to ask about a graffiti ordinance. Photo contributed

City Councilwoman Carol Simpson is upset with the graffiti in Newcastle, so she has asked city staff to research antigraffiti ordinances.

Vandals have hit a high traffic area frequently this year. Between 5 p.m. May 4 and 8:20 a.m. May 5, graffiti appeared on a fence in the 12300 block of Newcastle Way. The property owner immediately removed the graffiti.

The following day, between 5 p.m. May 5 and 8:30 a.m. May 6, more graffiti appeared on the same fence. Similar graffiti appeared across the street.

“This is occurring on our namesake street,” Simpson said.

Seattle adopted a graffiti nuisance ordinance in 1994. Homeowners there are required to remove graffiti within 10 days of receiving a notice or be subject to potential fines. If the graffiti is not removed within the specified time, the property is declared a nuisance.

If the graffiti were still not removed, the homeowner would go before the city’s hearing examiner, who can assess penalties of up to $100 per day, up to a maximum of $5,000.

In Marysville, property owners have up to four days to clean off graffiti before being fined. The city’s ordinance also prohibits the possession of graffiti implements by minors.

Newcastle Police Chief Melinda Irvine said the department does not track the number of graffiti incidents, but she said there have been other graffiti incidents unrelated to the vandalism along Newcastle Way. Based on the markings, it is hard to determine if the incidents are gang-related, she said.

“There is not one area that is hit all the time versus others,” she said. “Blank canvases of walls and fences are often hit more often than other places because of their nature.”

Vandals face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 if the damage exceeds $250, she said.

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