This is the first time Bing’s has experienced a large number of graffiti tags, said owner George Marshall. The only other time Marshall has dealt with graffiti is on the store’s dumpster six months ago. Photo by Annie Wilson
This is the first time Bing’s has experienced a large number of graffiti tags, said owner George Marshall. The only other time Marshall has dealt with graffiti is on the store’s dumpster six months ago. Photo by Annie Wilson

Unknown graffiti artists traveled down East Madison Street in Madison Park with spray paint in hand on April 10, tagging several store buildings.

The graffiti is not gang-related, according to Seattle Police Det. Christopher Young. Young said most gang graffiti is obvious, such as the gang’s name or symbolic number.

“Tagger graffiti is more abstract, like ‘Lectur’ (the graffiti found in Madison Park), which is kind of a made-up word,” Young said.

George Marshall, owner of Bing’s restaurant (4200 E. Madison St.), said he has never seen tagging like this in Madison Park before. The only graffiti he has dealt with is a tag on his Dumpster six months ago.

“We live in the city,” Marshall said. “Kids will be kids — unless they aren’t.”

Young speculated that the vandal is a teenage boy, because if he was older, Young would know about him. About 70 percent of Seattle graffiti vandals are 18 or older, with many in their 20s and 30s, according to Young.

Young said that about 1 percent of the graffiti he deals with is gang-related, while the rest is “tagger graffiti,” which is “graffiti for graffiti’s sake,” Young said.

He explained that most vandals do not create graffiti for art but rather for attention and the thrill of it.

“Graffiti is a very strong subculture, with their own customs and vocabulary,” Young explained. “It’s a peer group. They want to do graffiti to impress their friends. They want to take a picture of it and put it online.… That’s the attention-seeking side.”

Graffiti vandals also consider it an extreme sport that brings an adrenaline rush, like spraying graffiti while hanging off a bridge.

Additionally, it is illegal and they can get in trouble for it, which also brings a thrill.

Young said that graffiti is not a trend in Madison Park, but during the summer, there will be one or two “graffiti rampages where kids will just go nuts and tag a bunch of stuff.” 

Watchful eyes

Local State Farm agent Emily Wang Hawkins, the interim president of the Madison Park Business Association, said, from a business perspective, she encourages business owners to clean up graffiti as quickly as possible so vandals won’t come back.

According to the city’s Graffiti Nuisance Ordinance, property owners must remove graffiti in a timely manner or be subject to potential fines.

Removing tags quickly is the best way to discourage graffiti because vandals are not encouraged to return and damage other properties in the area, according to Seattle Public Utilities.

Hawkins also encourages people to stay alert and and call the authorities if they see anything suspicious.

“We are all small businesses down here, and it’s expensive for us to have to remove graffiti and stuff. So if everyone keeps looking out, maybe we can catch the people who are actually doing this,” she said.

Young encourages people to report graffiti if it looks like it took more than a minute to create. To report graffiti for removal on public property, call the Graffiti Report Line at (206) 684-7587.

When graffiti appears on private property, file a police report at (206) 625-5011.

If you see graffiti vandals in progress, call 911.

Vandalized flowerpots

Tina Brown has also noticed other property damage outside her shop, Tina’s on Madison (4232 E. Madison St.). Several of the flower pots outside the store were cracked, plants were destroyed and cigarette butts were put out in her pots. People will also occasionally urinate in them, she said.

Brown is not concerned about the money she is losing from the vandalized pots but is about the violent activity happening outside her door — as evidenced by pieces of glass and the pair of broken eyeglasses she has found.

“It sounds silly to hear someone complaining about pots,” Brown said. “But that is where it starts.”

Next door, at Madison Park Jewelers (4230 E. Madison St.), store owner Leo Bernard said he is not concerned about the pots outside his door, adding that one pot is broken every three years.

Stolen kegs

On April 22, a man stole four empty kegs from The Attic Alehouse & Eatery (4226 E. Madison St.) and then drove off in a large truck.

Mark Long, owner of The Attic for more than 25 years, said this is not the first time people have stolen his kegs. Just a few weeks earlier, he stopped two men in the act, and about one year ago, unknown thieves stole several kegs.

Long said that Madison Park, like every other place, gets hit with crime, but he has noticed more crime activity in the area, particularly with more people visiting the neighborhood. Long thinks people from outside the area are committing the crimes.

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