House unanimously approves Barkis bill to hold graffiti taggers accountable through community restitution

With a 97-0 vote today, the Washington State House of Representatives approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Andrew Barkis that seeks to hold graffiti taggers accountable and curb vandalism throughout the state.

House Bill 1800 would provide expanded options for judges in their sentencing of offenders convicted of malicious mischief in the third degree or criminal street gang tagging and graffiti. In addition to fines and other penalties, a judge may order offenders to perform at least 24 hours of community restitution, such as cleaning up their own graffiti.

Barkis, R-Olympia, says his bill is about more than just punishment.

“Graffiti is everywhere. It’s a growing nuisance that is serving to undermine the sense of safety and pride people have in their communities,” said Barkis. “House Bill 1800 seeks to hold offenders accountable for their actions while also giving them a chance to make amends and choose a better path forward for their lives. By implementing community restitution measures, we have the opportunity to not only impose consequences, but also promote community engagement and restoration.”

Key provisions of House Bill 1800 include:

  • Possible community restitution for certain offenses: Offenders convicted of malicious mischief in the third degree or criminal street gang tagging and graffiti may be required to perform at least 24 hours of community restitution, in addition to other penalties.
  • Court discretion for additional community or cleanup restitution: Judges would have the option to order offenders to participate in additional community restitution or directly clean up the damage they caused, with permission from the property owner. 
  • Financial restitution directed towards graffiti abatement: Restitution payments made by offenders would be directed towards the state’s graffiti and tagging abatement grant program or a similar fund dedicated solely to cleanup efforts. 

In a blog post last year, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) employees April Leigh and Tina Werner 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, Leigh and Werner wrote that WSDOT 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 future.

House Bill 1800 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov