City looking to streamline graffiti reporting system

SPOKANE, Wash. - Downtown graffiti vo

All too often the first thing people see when visiting Spokane is graffiti. Property owners have always been responsible for removing it and if they don't they get fined. Now the city is looking to change how property owners report graffiti.

Divine's Auto Center is right in the heart of one of Spokane's most vandalized areas but owner Jim Redmon's building has no graffiti marking up his clean, white walls.

"We get hit a lot and we have over the years," Redmon said. "We want it painted in 24 hours because we don't want to give them that sense of 'Hey we marked them.'"

Redmon has the right idea, said Heather Trautman with city code enforcement.

"We need to keep our city clean and part of that is to take care of graffiti and remove it as soon as possible," Trautman said.

When your property is vandalized or tagged, you're responsible for cleaning it up. If you don't, you could be fined more than $500. That doesn't happen often but there's a good reason for the fine.

"It may take more than once to actually deter the activity but if graffiti or tagging is left on a piece of property it can actually attract more," Trautman explained.

The city understands the headache businesses downtown deal with so they're working to streamline the reporting process by giving them only one number to call.

"That would be easier for the citizen to get both the photographs and the report into the City of Spokane and that information would allow all of us as partners to be able to evaluate it and take the correct course," Trautman said.

Not all businesses are as on top of things as Divine's Auto Center and some simply can't afford to constantly remove graffiti, so the other part of the city's plan is getting those businesses in touch with resources that can help.

"The COPS program has in the past assisted with graffiti removal, there are some non-profit groups in our community and we want to help organize so those resources would be available to our public that really need that assistance," Trautman said.

The new graffiti reporting process is just a proposal right now. Code enforcement is still working with the Spokane Police Department and other community partners to develop on official change in policy, with the goal being to make the whole process to be easier from the moment a business is tagged to the last coat of paint covering it up.