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Chamber, Council to hash out attack on graffiti

MARYSVILLE Whatever the tagger meant it to symbolize, the graffiti appeared over a weekend early this month, first spotted by the operator of a neighboring business.

A Marysville police patrolwoman responding to the scene noted she'd seen the general design before, but couldn't say for sure what it might mean.

The graffiti covered a few square feet of the side of the building occupied by offices of The Marysville Globe, making the paper only one of the latest businesses hit by taggers. The graffiti has been removed.

While no official numbers have been released, some members of the city's graffiti task force have said the rate of tagging in the city has dropped somewhat due to the increased use of surveillance cameras and stepped-up police operations.

"It's a two-sided coin," said city Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew, a member of the graffiti task force. "It continues," he added, but said surveillance cameras have reduced attacks on city parks that had been among the taggers' favorite targets.

In the meantime, local businesses have been weighing in on whether City Council should adopt tougher regulations on the sale of items such as spray paint and markers. The Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce has been conducting a survey of area businesses and will present a formal recommendation to the graffiti task force May 1, said chamber President Caldie Rogers.

According to preliminary results of the survey released by the chamber, those responding to the survey are roughly split on the effectiveness and, from a business standpoint, the practicality of limiting the graffiti related items.

The city is considering several possible mandates, including banning the sale of spray paint, markers and similar items to minors. Other measures would require retailers to put such items under lock and key or move them to the front of stores where they presumably could be kept under closer observation.

"All of these items put an unfair burden on businesses selling these items in the normal course of business," said Mary Burns of local bookseller Bookworks. "If these are made mandatory, the next step would be to fine the businesses if these products are found on minors. Gangs wanting these implements will find a way to get them."

"We experience graffiti on a regular basis," said Deb Loughrey-Johnson, executive director of the senior citizen housing development Grandview Village. "I would love not to have to pay my staff to clean up messes created by those with no respect of others' property."

Loughrey-Johnson expressed a fear that if taggers could not get their hands on spray paint or markers, they make take to carving or etching out their tags. According to Rogers, graffiti etched into storefront glass already has appeared on at least one State Avenue business.

Again results are preliminary, but overall, 50 percent of those responding to the chamber survey opposed banning sales of graffiti related items to minors. Some 59 percent opposed locking-up such items, but 65 percent favored requiring those items be moved to the front of stores.

As the burden of complying with the new rules under consideration primarily would fall on them, Rogers and the chamber separated out responses coming from retailers. A slim majority of 52 percent favored the proposed sales ban. A larger margin of 64 percent favored moving markers and such to the front of stores, while a solid majority opposed locking up such items.

Among graffiti taskforce members, City Councilman Jeffrey Vaughan has been among the most outspoken in terms of bringing the graffiti problems under control. Nevertheless, he recently said the city probably would listen to any recommendations coming from the chamber.

"The impression I get from Council is that they are very focused on businesses and retail, that they are sensitive to things that make it tough for local retailers," he said.

While police did not respond to a request for comment, several task force members said graffiti and vandalism arrests have increased. Ballew and others have talked about officers using computerized GPS systems to track graffiti hot spots.

For his part, Ballew added that arresting perpetrators is only part of the task force's goals. He said prevention is another and he and other city leaders will be going into Marysville's middle schools to talk about the graffiti problem and its consequences next month. Middle school aged juveniles have been targeted as being among those most likely to be tempted by graffiti activities.

Ballew promised what is being planned is not a lecture series.

"It's a discussion series," he said.

In general, graffiti perpetrators caught by police are being asked to make restitution. Ballew said the task force presentations would emphasize the potential cost of getting caught. Plans also call for the screening of an anti-graffiti video put together by students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

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