Amendment allows city of Oak Harbor to clean graffiti, bill property owners

A new rule in Oak Harbor is aimed at getting graffiti cleaned up quickly.

Tuesday, the city council approved an amendment to the city code that changes the way the city can deal with unlawful wall doodles and drawings.

The change adds graffiti to the definition of a public nuisance and places the responsibility of removing graffiti on property owners. At a council workshop last month, Police Chief Kevin Dresker explained that the amendment would give property owners 15 days to clean up the unwanted spray-painted messages.

If a property owner fails to do so, city staff will notify him or her about the problem in person or by certified mail.

If the graffiti persists, the city can either send staff members or hire a contractor to go onto the property and scrub the problem away. The city would then bill the property owner.

Dresker explained that there are several reasons behind the amendment. Graffiti, he said, can decrease property value, encourage other graffiti, embolden the spray-painting perpetrator and create blight.

“It’s much better to take care of it in a timely fashion,” he said.

Dresker added that he doesn’t think the city will have to utilize the code very often.

Graffiti hasn’t been a problem lately, he said, but the code is intended as a pro-active solution.

Writing or painting graffiti is a gross misdemeanor crime defined as malicious mischief. The city can’t compel a suspected graffiti artist to clean up the unwanted markings, Dresker explained, because the allegations are dealt with in the criminal justice system.

A judge may order a person who is convicted of a graffiti crime to pay restitution.

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