Graffiti alert

You may have noticed lately that someone has been on a tagging spree around the neighborhood, leaving their mark on walls, garbage dumpsters, signs at the park, and on people’s yard waste and recycling cans. The tagger even hit the side of a parked van.

I could take a walk in almost any direction in the neighborhood and every time, I’d count at least three different spots this person has tagged, and it’s the same ugly graphic, spray painted in either black or orange. I’m not going to give the tagger the satisfaction of posting a picture of the tag here, but trust me, you’d know it if you saw it. It’s somewhat of a cross between a person or a spider, drawn by a three year-old.

So, what do you do when something of yours gets tagged? Well, for starters, you need to get rid of it right away or risk being penalized under the Graffiti Nuisance Ordinance. Governed by Seattle Public Utilities, the Ordinance was put in place to stop graffiti from spreading throughout the community. If graffiti remains on the owner’s property within the specified time, the owner could face fines of up to $100 per day, with a maximum of $5,000. Seattle Public Utilities recommends taking the following steps to removing graffiti:

Report graffiti – Use the Online Report Form or call the City’s Graffiti Report Line at (206) 684-7587 to report graffiti on public property, or on private property that has persisted for a period of time. Make a police report to (206) 625-5011 when graffiti appears on your property.

If you see an act of graffiti vandalism in progress, call 911 immediately. Graffiti vandals must be caught in the act to be prosecuted.

Remove graffiti – When graffiti appears on your home, apartment building, or business, take a photo to document for insurance purposes. After the police document the vandalism, remove or paint over the graffiti immediately.

Volunteer to clean up graffiti – Organize a one-time event or pledge to keep a four-block area free of graffiti. SPU provides supplies and waiver forms (pdf) so you can get written permission from property owners to paint out graffiti on their property.

Coincidentally, SPU has a Graffiti clean up event in July and August called Summer Paint Out:

  • Whether you are a group or an individual, you can tackle graffiti in your neighborhood. We’ll supply you with free paint (white-brown-gray), rollers, brushes, scrapers, and gloves.

You can also take action by making your property graffiti-resistant. Steps that are known to work include:

  • Installing improved lighting and flashing motion-sensor lighting.
  • Growing vines or appropriate vegetation to cover unpainted retaining walls.
  • Installing a graffiti-resistant coating on your walls.
  • Keeping matching paint on hand to quickly paint out graffiti.
  • Installing cameras to monitor activity on your property.

Ever wonder what kind of a person goes around tagging personal and public property? We’ve traded emails with a spokesperson from the Wallingford and Fremont Chambers of Commerce, better known around these parts as the “Graffiti Sheriff”. The Sheriff tells us that “Taggers are often students who do not achieve acceptance in sports or other school projects.” They’re self-proclaimed artists though, and the Sheriff adds, “The difference between art and crime is permission.” Here’s what the Sheriff recommends:

  • Accept the current ongoing graffiti tag situation.
  • Avoid waiting around blaming police for not catching the taggers in the act.
  • Have matching paint on hand, paint out quickly to discourage taggers (they go elsewhere). I suggest that some businesses (ie QFC) use a matching brick colored paint to cover any ongoing tagging. Even tags on brick can be removed w/early chemical application and pressure washing.
  • Report tags to the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce offices promptly, so I can get to them ASAP (especially on brick). Call (206) 632-3165 to report graffiti tags observed in neighborhood.
  • I also suggest the whole community be a lot more alert regarding suspicious activities seen in progress in early AM (Midnight to 3 am.) A little vigilance helps considerably. The community needs to work together on this problem. Keeping an eye on the community is very important.
  • Get a description of the taggers. A vehicle license plate is golden.
  1. Jason said,

    If your garbage cans got tagged, which ours did and many others as well, just call Waste Management and they’ll replace the cans very quickly at no cost or hassle.

    Thu, August 25 at 6:52 am
  2. Alli said,

    My boyfriend and I saw this guy in action at about 1:30AM on July 4th. He tagged the parking garage of our apartment complex and was spraying as I pulled in. He ran off immediately but we got a glimpse of him. He was tall (5′ 10″+), white, skinny/medium build, with a small messenger bag, hooded sweatshirt, and pants, all black.

    Thu, August 25 at 8:09 am
  3. ssm said,

    Our garage door got tagged earlier this summer and I would like to THROTTLE the kid (in a non-violent, pacifistic way) who did it. I didn’t know about the graffiti law or the hotline to report, so thanks for posting this info. (We spray painted over it, but our garage looks even crappier than normal).

    Thu, August 25 at 10:26 am
  4. Frankie said,

    I love how the city’s reaction is to punish the victims and increase the cost of the damage across the entire spectrum of the neighborhood.

    Thu, August 25 at 11:45 am
  5. hayduke said,

    If we catch them in the act of defacing (sorry, “artistically enhancing” )our property, can we impose a beat-down on them without fear of running afoul of the law? Can we? Can we?

    Thu, August 25 at 12:14 pm
  6. Stephen Schildbach said,

    How is it that the Seattle Public Utilities has the right and power to decide to charge innocent citizens for another person’s crime? And, the author of this post, lists the laws as if we should jump like sheep to abide by it. This law that punishes victims for their property being tagged needs to be fought and is more disturbing to me than the punk tagger and the mess he is leaving behind.

    Thu, August 25 at 7:01 pm
  7. Smith said,


    If you catch them in the act? Pepper spray, 911.

    Thu, August 25 at 7:04 pm
  8. J said,

    I think the law was put in place to compel folks to clean it up quick – kind of the broken windows approach so that it doesn’t just get ignored. I get why it pisses you off though and only hope that the tagger, if caught, has to pay up.

    I’ve seen some incredible graffiti in my day – in fact, I drove around in a VW bus for a couple of years that had been painted by two amazing graffiti artists. But this is just self-aggrandizing jackassery.

    Thu, August 25 at 10:26 pm
  9. Kara C said,

    at first i was surprised not to see our Grafitti Sheriff’s info, but was glad to see it. that’s one to call first, if not a residence.
    wallingford businesses can always call janet at the WNO (wford neighb office) to report so that the Sheriff can help get on it. we, and fremont, have been sharing him for years, and really appreciate him, esp since the city made cuts!
    and you can catch ’em in the act, as jon & i did a couple yrs ago. (yes, police caught one, and he was prosecuted – yay!)

    Sun, August 28 at 2:31 pm
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