Seattle City Council members Tim Burgess and Tom Rasmussen are conducting a survey to find out just how much we hate graffiti. You can take the survey here.
It asks if you think graffiti creates the "perception that the neighborhood is unsafe" or "that the area has a crime problem" (graffiti is a crime, so if you see it everywhere, there's a crime problem, right?).
Then the survey asks what you think the solutions are. I checked boxes for "Greater City support for community organization and involvement in graffiti prevention and removal" and "More community clean-ups of graffiti on private property." In addition, I think we should have more private partnership to clean up graffiti on public property—like, we can clean up tags around the neighborhood and eat pizza and take a flask and play music on a boom box and it would be fun.
But for the proposed solutions, I did not check boxes to create "Stiffer penalties for graffiti vandals" or "A local law that restricts access to spray paint and other materials by prohibiting suppliers from selling to minors and keeping the materials secured."
Graffiti is already illegal. Under the city's graffiti law, anyone who "writes, paints or draws any inscription, figure or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any real or personal property owned by any other person" can be punished with a gross misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
If folks who get caught, they get punished. If they don't get caught, they don't get punished. Increasing the penalty won't help us catch more vandals. And where do "stiffer penalties" go from here? We could make it a felony punishable by two years in jail and a $10,000 fine, I guess, but I seriously doubt the distinction would be on the mind of people who are tagging a wall or that it would act as a deterrent.