Ross: Catching graffiti artists is just the beginning of the crackdown

Dec 15, 2022, 7:58 AM | Updated: 9:17 am


A Metropolitan Improvement District’s Clean Team member picks up trash next to graffiti on 4th Avenue on March 09, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. The city has recently struggled with an uptick in homelessness and violent crime. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

First, a shout-out to the Washington State Department of Transportation for performing an epic coverup of the graffiti along Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle last week.

The taggers of course are already treating it as a blank canvas – which they wouldn’t be able to do if the state would put up some plastic ivy as I’ve been suggesting. But I appreciate the effort because it does look better than it did.

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And a shout-out to the cops who responded so fast to a 911 call about graffiti-in-progress on Capitol Hill last week that they arrested two of our more prolific artists! While their graffiti was still wet! The suspects — suspiciously – had paint all over their clothes, and the alert citizen who called it in caught them on camera!

Now that is some serious law enforcement.

Unfortunately, since the law treats this as simply mischief, one of them was released on bail and promptly skipped town.

However, the other one was bundled off to jail because it turned out he wasn’t just tagging buildings – he was also wanted for assault, kidnapping, and burglary.

Both are in their 30’s, by the way, 36 and 37. So these aren’t poor wayward teens suffering from an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. They’re adults who’ve chosen their occupation and won’t change until the cost gets too high.

And right now, the cost is low, because our laws are unfazed by graffiti – even though these two guys alone have cost taxpayers $300,000 in property damage. And that’s just for the tags that can be directly traced to them.

But I think the damage they do goes beyond money. I think it’s a psychological assault.

I think this stuff makes people feel dirty as they drive past. It’s bad enough that it’s distracting – but it also undermines our sense of safety. It reinforces cynicism, it chips away at any sense of pride we might have in the city we’ve all helped create. Basically, it’s like a Twitter feed you can’t turn off.

So it’s time to turn it off. Every night, the anti-graffiti truck should drive along I-5, firing paint at the wall, and when the cops see someone staggering up the ramp covered in paint, they should humanely arrest him so he can dry out in jail. We can establish sentencing guidelines based on how many layers of paint are on him.

And then, once these Highway Rembrandts are safely separated from their paint cans, for heaven’s sake, put up some fake ivy!

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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