Sunday, June 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

War on graffiti goes all ‘Seal Team 6’ on taggers

The City has given a "deploy" command to a pilot program that would fund a "rapid response" team to battle graffiti along main roadways.

Think of the new program as Tacoma's Seal Team 6, the Naval Special Forces unit that tracked down and killed terrorist bomb plotter Osama Bin Laden in 2011. But these commandos have paint rollers and power washers, not assault helicopters.

Under the rapid-response model, a contractor will be tasked with removing graffiti from a private property within three days of when spray-painted "tags" or graffiti appear. The city is talking to several community nonprofit groups to handle the graffiti contract. The work would be free to the property owner up to three times during a calendar year, however restrictions apply. Upon the second incidence, for example, the property owner would have to conduct a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design assessment and be required to implement at least one suggestion to receive further painting services. The design suggestions would likely include things like install lighting or cameras, or cut back hedges in efforts to make properties more visible and easier to monitor.

The $50,000 graffiti effort is a product of a meeting of Tacoma’s Community Based Services Resource Team last summer. The group is made up of city officials and members of the business and community that explore ways of solving community issues. The team examining graffiti is made up of staff from the City Manager's Office, Public Works Street Operations and Facilities Divisions, the City Attorney's Office, Community and Economic Development Arts Administration and Neighborhood and Community Services as well as staff from the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Downtown Business Improvement Area.

This pilot effort will focus on graffiti removal around the main entrances to the city, around clusters of hotels and apartments, commercial strips and main bike routes.

“We want to get those highly traveled corridors,” Community Based Services staffer Allison Griffin said.

The team is also looking for ways to install cameras in various locations and boost penalties for graffiti offenses. Until now, Tacoma's nuisance code required private property owners to remove graffiti, at their own expense, within 18 days of being reported.

The city is also working on an informational campaign to remind retailers that the city has rules against anyone under the age of 18 years old buying spray paint cans and pens often used by graffiti taggers. The rules are on the books, but little-known and rarely enforced.

The program should be in place and ready to start later this year. Anyone can report graffiti by calling (253) 798-4721 or learning more at