Washougal leaders say the town’s graffiti problem appears to be getting worse.
Graffiti in Washougal has nearly tripled in the past three years, according to Michelle Wright, the city’s public works administrator.
“The city doesn’t know exactly why the graffiti has increased,” Wright said. “This increase happened during COVID, so that could be one of the causes.
“Graffiti is expensive, destructive, lowers property values and impacts the appearance of the community,” Wright added. “It holds us back as a community because we continue to use our limited resources to try to keep the city clean. It is unfortunate that there are individuals who participate in this kind of vandalism, degrading our community and adding extra work to city crews and private property owners.
Trevor Evers, the city’s director of public works, told a Washougal City Council workshop on June 27 that the graffiti had “got out of hand in the last two months.”
“We try to be as responsive as possible,” Evers said. “We’re trying to get there quickly, especially how offensive it is – it needs to be taken down immediately, depending on what’s spray painted. Lower priority ones, if you will, we get there when we we can.”
Graffiti appears on signs, buildings, sidewalks, parks, tunnels, bridges and public restrooms, according to Wright, who added that the city had covered restrooms in the park with anti-graffiti paint and installed new park signs with an anti-graffiti coating in the past. three years.
“It made graffiti removal a bit easier, but some graffiti is impossible to remove,” she said. “The park board is considering installing murals to help prevent graffiti. Some studies show that murals are an effective way to prevent graffiti, but it’s not 100% effective.
The city may soon be asking residents for help with the graffiti problem.
“I spoke with Michelle (Wright) about working with Adopt-a-Park (volunteers) and others,” Evers said. “We could potentially leverage them to help with this tagging and vandalism, especially since it really only takes (one) manual labor to remove it. There’s no technique or science, according to the type of surface it is sprayed on.
Mayor Rochelle Ramos agreed with Evers and said he contacted Wright and Washougal City Manager David Scott earlier this summer to see if the city’s parks board might be able to set up a volunteer graffiti removal program.
“I know that there are many citizens who are tired of seeing this and who are going to intervene. They just need the training and the authority to do it,” Ramos said. “I have kids looking for graffiti.”
The Washougal Municipal Code states that all sidewalks, walls, buildings, fences, signs, and their structures or surfaces must be free of graffiti when graffiti is visible from a street or other public or private property, and graffiti permission “is declared a public nuisance.”
Violators of the city’s public nuisance provision “will be guilty of a civil offence,” according to the code.
“We have a provision specifying that if anyone is caught defacing our streets, sidewalks and bridges, including their appurtenances, they are responsible for the cost of cleanup,” Scott said. “We have no provision for restrictions on the sale of spray paint or the requirement that someone clean up graffiti.”
The city isn’t the only government entity in Washougal dealing with graffiti, Evers said.
“We also worked with the school district,” Evers said. “They were victims of marking at Gause primary school as well as in high school. With the end of school, we’re trying to stay ahead of the game.
Washougal officials are encouraging local residents who have information about the graffiti or vandalism to call 311 and fill out an online form at cityofwashougal.us/170/Report-a-Concern.
“It’s nice to hear the city is so proactive about this with the limited number of staff they have (to put in) for this,” Washougal City Council member Michelle Wagner said.