The best strategy to fight graffiti is to cover it up as quickly as possible.
Covington Police officers are working on ways to help residents and business owners do that in response to a noticeable increase in graffiti and tagging in the city.
Officer Jason Stanley said the whole reason someone gets out a marker or spray paint to vandalize a fence or a building is because they “want people to see it.”
“The biggest deterrent is quick removal,” Stanley said. “The motivation behind the graffiti offender is recognition. If they realize that it’s going to be there for a day then it’s going to be gone then the motivation is going to be decreased.”
During the past year the Covington City Council has considered adopting ordinances in an effort to make it harder for vandals to leave their mark, but Chief Kevin Klason said it’s hard to enforce those kinds of laws.
Instead, the police department wants to develop tools for people to cover up graffiti when it appears, as well as to get residents more involved in watching out for this crime.
“What we have done in lieu of (an ordinance) is put together a committee of city staff who have brought in some of our retailers as partners to do a Covington clean up,” Klason said. “We’re going to do public outreach. We want to put together graffiti clean up kits.”
At Covington Days in July, Klason said, officers will be at the city’s booth talking about the kits, which will have instructions and materials to clean up or cover graffiti and tags.
Police will also be promoting the kits during National Night Out in August.
Plans are also under way for a Covington Clean Up Day in September after school starts.
“We’re going to partner with Puget Sound Energy and get some of their paint for their utility boxes,” Klason said. “Any of their utility boxes that are in the right of way if graffiti shows up on those we can get those covered up right away.
We’re also working on partnering with retailers to provide things for those kits … like graffiti remover, sandpaper, paint brushes, paint containers, latex gloves, all the utensils that you would need to try to remove the graffiti or cover it up.”
Klason said officers also want citizens to provide them with details when they do discover vandalism on their property as well as provide police with a photo of the graffiti “so we can track this information.”
Stanley said the support of residents is important to tackle the problem.
“We need to rely more on the citizens to be alert and take note of what they see,” Stanley said. “If they see somebody performing one of these criminal acts, take note of what they’re wearing, which direction they walk, what they’re spraying or drawing.”
One homeowner, Stanley explained, had to paint over graffiti on her fence four weeks in a row but hasn’t had a problem since October.
“That proves our point that quick eradication of graffiti is the best deterrent,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people when the problem was even worse than it is today. I would talk to the homeowners or the property owners and tell them why it was important to clean it up, and most people were happy to do it. They don’t want the problem to perpetuate, either.”
Reach Kris Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425)432-1209 ext. 5054.