Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess intends to widen the definition of graffiti under the city's criminal code and beef up financial penalties for offenders. First, a Burgess-sponsored bill would criminalize putting unwanted stickers on public or private property (the existing property-destruction law applies to anyone who "writes, paints or draws any inscription, figure or mark"—which doesn't specifically include stickers). Second, the bill would allow courts to collect more restitution from offenders on behalf of property owners.
"They are really minor tweaks," Burgess says. He eschewed more severe measures, such as penalizing parents or banning spray paint, because "they sound good, but there is no evidence that they make a difference on graffiti."
Both components of the bill are derived from recommendations in a graffiti audit earlier this year, requested by Burgess and Council Member Tom Rasmussen, which found 556 examples of graffiti in the city but discovered "no instances of what could be called artistic tagging." The report found that stickers were the most prevalent form of graffiti in the city and recommended they be included in the property-destruction law. (The Seattle Street Art group on Flickr displays thousands of examples of street art, many of them stickers.)
Under the city's current anti-graffiti law—and Burgess's proposed changes—offenders may be charged with a gross misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The bill expanding that law will likely be introduced in the first quarter of 2011, Burgess says.