With new bill, Barkis takes aim at Washington’s graffiti problem

Recognizing the significant concerns posed by graffiti vandalism in communities across Washington state, Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, has introduced legislation to combat the problem head-on.

House Bill 1989, which was prefiled by Barkis last week, would implement a three-pronged approach:

1. Research: The bill would direct the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to test and determine whether there are anti-graffiti products and paints that can be used effectively on highway walls and other facility surfaces. WSDOT would be required to report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by December 31, 2024.

2. Strategic Deterrence: WSDOT-owned cameras not used for tolling or work safety zone enforcement would be utilized to deter and identify perpetrators. Captured evidence would facilitate legal action against culprits, sending a clear message of zero tolerance.

3. Collaboration for Enforcement and Accountability: WSDOT would be required to coordinate with the Washington State Patrol, state parks, federal and local law enforcement officers, the attorney general’s office, and local prosecuting attorney’s offices to pursue legal actions against perpetrators.

In a March 2023 blog post, WSDOT wrote: “We’ve seen an increase in graffiti vandalism along our state roads over the past few years. Newly completed bridges, overpasses, walls, and other structures are often hot spots for these crimes as they offer a fresh blank canvass for taggers. Active construction projects with new or closed sections of roads also attract activity because there is no traffic there at night.”

In the same post, WSDOT said its maintenance teams had spent $1.4 million on graffiti removal in the past two years and that the department expected to spend even more in the next biennium.

Barkis believes House Bill 1989 would address these concerns.

“Graffiti is not just an eyesore; it is also a costly nuisance that threatens public safety and drains taxpayer dollars,” said Barkis. “If passed by the Legislature and signed into law, House Bill 1989 will empower us to protect our infrastructure investments, hold perpetrators accountable, and reclaim public spaces for all to enjoy. We cannot allow the actions of a few to continue shaping the narrative of our communities.”

The bill now awaits committee assignment and will be considered during the 2024 legislative session.

Featured image source: Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Featured image used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 link to license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/


Washington State House Republican Communications