Governor signs Barkis bill aimed at combating graffiti vandalism across Washington state

Governor Jay Inslee has signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Andrew Barkis aimed at tackling the rampant spread of graffiti vandalism across Washington state. House Bill 1989 will establish a pilot program designed to test innovative technologies and techniques to hold perpetrators accountable and restore the aesthetics of public spaces through swift and efficient cleanup.

The program, to be overseen by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), includes:

  • Field testing of state-of-the-art spray drone technology to cover up existing graffiti, ensuring prompt restoration of affected areas.
  • Utilization of WSDOT-owned cameras to deter and identify perpetrators. Tolling and work safety zone enforcement cameras will not be utilized.
  • Prioritization of the Interstate 5 Puget Sound region from Tacoma to Seattle and the north Spokane corridor for the deployment of innovative graffiti prevention techniques.

The bill requires WSDOT to submit a report to the Legislature by December 1, 2024, detailing the program’s progress, including funding allocation, the effectiveness of identification methods, and the results of spray drone testing. The pilot program will conclude on July 1, 2025.

“This legislation is a testament to our commitment as lawmakers to restoring the dignity of our public infrastructure and ensuring Washington remains a place of pride for all its residents,” said Barkis, R-Olympia. “I am confident this pilot program will make significant strides in combating graffiti vandalism and reestablishing a culture of respect for our shared spaces.”

In a blog post last year, 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 WSDOT maintenance teams had spent $1.4 million on graffiti removal over the past two years and that the department expected to spend even more in the future.

“The explosion of graffiti in our state has become a serious concern that demands an immediate and comprehensive response,” added Barkis. “This bill acknowledges the frustration Washingtonians feel about graffiti on our roadways and sends a clear message that enough is enough. We cannot continue allowing the actions of a few to shape the narrative of our communities.”

House Bill 1989 will go into effect June 6.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov