MYNORTHWEST POLITICS

Bill using state traffic cameras, other tech to fight graffiti passes in House

Feb 13, 2024, 4:56 AM | Updated: 6:34 am

Image:The Bellingham Police Department arrested four prolific graffiti suspects accused of vandaliz...

The Bellingham Police Department arrested four prolific graffiti suspects accused of vandalizing property across the city and causing thousands of dollars in damages. (Photo courtesy of the Bellingham Police Department)

(Photo courtesy of the Bellingham Police Department)

Update 2/13 6:00 a.m.:

House Bill 1989, providing a different approach to combatting vandalism through cameras and drone technology, passed in the Washington House of Representatives on a 96-1 vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, would use current Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) highway cameras to identify and prosecute graffiti as malicious mischief — a misdemeanor — tied to community service.

The bill is now before the Senate for further deliberation.

Original Story:

The Washington House Transportation Committee approved a Republican-led substitute bill Monday that allows Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) traffic cameras to be used to catch graffiti violators.

Substitute House Bill 1989 presents a more tech-savvy approach to combatting vandalism, as it introduces advanced spray drone technology and improved identification systems. (A PDF of the original bill can be viewed here.)

If passed into law, the pilot program would empower WSDOT to utilize its cameras, but excluding those dedicated to tolling and work safety zone enforcement, to identify individuals responsible for graffiti damage.

The bill also directed WSDOT to collaborate with other entities to pursue legal action against repeat offenders and investigate anti-graffiti products and paints for effective use on highway walls and other surfaces.

The House Transportation Committee passed the Republican-led bill out of committee by a 27-2 vote.

“You drive up and down the highway, (there are) hardly any blank spaces and it shouldn’t have to be our in our wildest dreams to have clean highways,” said Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor.

More on state cameras: Bill includes 75% discount for some traffic violators

Technology potentially aiding in graffiti reduction

The substitute bill takes a step further by incorporating modern technologies into the graffiti reduction initiative.

One of the key modifications is the inclusion of field testing for spray drone technology, designed to efficiently cover existing graffiti.

Moreover, the substitute mandates an investigation and testing of improvements to systems capable of identifying vandals.

Under the revised bill, WSDOT is compelled to conduct tests of the technology and system improvements, with a specific focus on the Interstate 5 (I-5) Puget Sound region from Tacoma to Seattle and the North Spokane Corridor.

The substitute bill also introduces a timeline, requiring WSDOT to report to the appropriate legislative committees on the pilot program by Dec. 1. That includes funding details and program results. The pilot program is set to expire on July 1, 2025.

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Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, emphasized the need for a proactive and innovative approach to combat the persistent issue of graffiti vandalism.

“We are exploring technologies that not only remove graffiti efficiently but also enhance our ability to identify and deter vandals,” Barkis said during a recent committee hearing.

The bill now moves to the Rules Committee and could be voted on by the full House soon.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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