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New Arlington graffiti ordinance will fine property owners failing to do clean-up

ARLINGTON — An ordinance that would fine property owners $100 per day for graffiti left unabated on their property will soon be in place.

Arlington Police Chief Robert Sullenberger presented the proposed ordinance to the City Council during a work session Sept. 28 and the Council approved the measure Monday, Oct. 5.

The new law will give property owners 48 hours to remove graffiti or be subject to the fine.

The police chief said although Arlington has not had many instances of graffiti within its city limits, having an ordinance in place will make a difference if gang activity becomes a bigger issue in the future.

Arlington is located between two cities that "have a gang problem" according to a city memo — Mount Vernon and Marysville.

Sullenberger said he hopes the ordinance will keep gang-related activity, such as graffiti, from spreading into Arlington.

"This would give us a tool to use if we get inundated with graffiti," Sullenberger told the Council during the work session.

National studies have shown that removing graffiti within 24-48 hours after it has been placed is a major deterrent, Sullenberger said.

During his Sept. 28 presentation, which was shown again to the Council Oct. 5, Sullenberger said that it costs large cities millions of dollars — or about $1 to $3 per person — to clean up graffiti.

Those numbers could potentially translate the city of Arlington having to pay $17,000 to $51,000 to clean up graffiti, he said.

Although the city may be taking a hard-line stance on graffiti, Sullenberger said that the community can organize work parties to help alleviate the pressure the ordinance puts on private business and property owners.

The ordinance has provisions allowing affected property owners to have their 48-hour deadlines extended. Weather and seasonal conditions, such as snow, would qualify under those circumstances.

City Councilman Scott Solla said on Sept. 28 that the ordinance sounds like it's punishing property owners by forcing them to do cleanup.

"Some people don't have paint or time," Solla said. "A community resource pool should be set up, especially if (property owners) are elderly or can't get out there."

Sullenberger said that there are similar programs in place in other communities and said he'd explore that option.

The ordinance was approved unanimously without much discussion.

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