Court ruling allows Seattle to resume anti-graffiti enforcement

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(The Center Square) – Seattle can resume enforcement of its misdemeanor graffiti ordinance following a recent reversal of a previous court ruling.

Last June, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman barred Seattle from enforcing its recent anti-graffiti ordinance. Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison’s office appealed the lower court ruling on July 3, and made oral arguments to a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Jan. 9.

On Feb. 2, the 9th Circuit Court reversed that ruling.

“The people of Seattle won an important victory today when the Ninth Circuit upheld our city’s right to enforce our laws against graffiti property destruction,” Davison said in a statement. “Graffiti is a massive problem for our city, costing taxpayers, businesses, and residents millions of dollars while creating widespread visual blight.”

According to Seattle Municipal Code 12A.08.020, a person is guilty of property destruction if they intentionally write, paint or draw any mark or image of any type on any building or structure, unless the person has obtained express permission of the owner or operator of the property.

Anyone who is suspected of destroying property via graffiti could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Since 2019, reports of graffiti in the city have increased more than 50%. In response, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell previously worked to address an uptick in property crimes related to graffiti, including increased staffing and resources for Seattle Public Utilities’ Graffiti Rangers.

Vandalism response totals $632,237 in the 2023-2024 Seattle budget.

“We must have as many tools as possible to protect neighbors and residents impacted by graffiti,” Davison said.

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