Merchants: New graffiti law makes victims the bad guys

MARYSVILLE A new city law will give property owners a maximum of four days to clean or cover graffiti, or they could face fines of $25 dollars a day for each violation.
The former law on the books since 1991 gave owners up to 30 days to get the job done, and the ordinance passed by the Marysville City Council on Feb. 12 will also give the city some teeth to clean or cover tagging if property owners dont get it done themselves. The new law applies to tenants and renters, who may not have authority to conduct work on the structures they occupy.
Property owners or tenants will have 48 hours to cover graffiti and then they can be served a notice by the city allowing an additional two days to do the job. If an owner or tenant doesnt paint over graffiti they can face the $25 per day fine and the city can have workers do the work and bill the owner or tenants for the time and materials required. The new ordinance gives the city the right to abate the nuisance, but the city would first have to get a court order to enter a property if the tenant or lawful owner will not consent to the work. The tenant or owner will have 10 days to appeal to the city hearing examiner.
Two local business owners balked at some of the provisions at the Councils Feb. 5 workshop meeting. Erik Wagner and Craig Shankel complained that the ordinance is turning graffiti victims into criminals.
Wagner owns an insurance office on State Avenue that has been repeatedly hit by vandals. He told the Council that the last time it happened he was out of town and didnt get back for some time after the damage, and then weather conditions made it impossible to do the work. In the meantime, he has a business to run.
It simply cant be done, Wagner said. Please dont make me the victim.
He said it should be illegal to carry concealed spray paint, something city attorney Grant Weed said is the law in California, but not in Washington. Weed emphasized that the penalties under the new ordinance for property owners are civil infractions and that the city court cannot prosecute minors. Those juveniles collared for vandalism are prosecuted in Snohomish County courts and those judges are always aware of the impact graffiti is having on Marysville.
Were working to get the court over there to recognize the impact, Weed said.
Interim Police Chief John Turner said there is no intent to make victims into criminals and cited the work of a city-wide committee to fight the scourge plaguing schools, parks and commercial buildings. Officers have conducted several stakeouts and have made arrests of several juveniles, most in their preteen years. No gang members have been arrested in some of the recent damage but the department is still aware of the potential and keeping an eye on the problem.

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