Some graffiti will soon be a crime in Aberdeen, unless you get the property owner’s permission. The city council this week held the first reading of a bill amending their public nuisance code, Police Chief Bob Torgerson said this morning “One of the things that the city is looking at is that graffiti is a nuisance, and if you a person that had some graffiti put on your building you are responsible for cleaning it up.”
The city currently has no ordinance specific to graffiti, the proposed change would add graffiti to the city’s definitions of a public nuisance. So who decides when graffiti becomes art? Torgerson tells KBKW “That would be up to the code enforcement officer to look at it and make a determination, and if someone disagrees with that there will be ways they can dispute that it is art versus graffiti.”
The chief added that anything painted on the side of private property will require consent of the owner. Using an alley between Wishkah and Heron streets in downtown Aberdeen as an example, he said some business owners commissioned paintings in the alley, but when developer John Yonich renovated the D & R Theater they painted over any graffiti on the building. Paint, on the side of a willing business owner’s building, is art. Paint on the side of an unwilling business owner’s building is graffiti – furthermore the city will be requiring the building owner to remove it under the new definition.
Torgerson said gang-related graffiti is automatically handled under the state’s Criminal Street Gang Tagging and Graffiti RCW.
The council will hold their second reading of the bill at their next council meeting, May 28th.