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New anti-graffiti law mandates cleanup

Owners have 10 days before city takes action

Property owners who ignore a city request to clean up graffiti within 10 days could have their properties declared a nuisance under a new law approved unanimously Monday by the Spokane City Council.

City officials said the new law is necessary to ease the city’s growing graffiti problem.

“The last thing we want to do is victimize someone who already has been victimized,” said Spokane police Lt. Rex Olson. But “if you do not remove that graffiti as soon as possible, you end up with more graffiti.”

Under the new rules, a property owner who ignores a city call for graffiti to be covered or removed could be taken to Superior Court. A judge could then order the owner to take action, and failure to do so could result in the city fixing the problem at the owner’s cost.

Olson said that officials will work closely with owners and that having a property declared a nuisance would be a last resort. He said the most quickly graffiti is removed, the less likely it is that vandals will continue to deface the property.

Councilman Bob Apple said he was concerned that 10 days isn’t enough time for some property owners. His proposed amendment to increase the time a property owner would have to remove the graffiti to 15 days failed on a 5-2 vote.

“The bottom line is they are the victims here and we have to be reasonable,” Apple said.

The new law also takes aim at folks who deface property. Vandals found responsible for graffiti would face a gross misdemeanor charge, which has a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine. The rules also say that the parent of a minor “arrested or found committing” an act of vandalism in the form of graffiti may be held “jointly” liable for the damage.

Jonathan Brunt can be reached at or (509) 459-5442.