State probe busts 5 for graffiti along highways, interstate

Troopers recommended that county prosecutors charge the men with 52 counts of malicious mischief.

EVERETT — Five Snohomish County men are facing potential charges for graffiti along highways after a months-long investigation by state authorities.

Washington State Patrol has referred 52 charges of malicious mischief, including nine felony counts, to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office in connection with the vandalism, according to a news release from the state agency.

In late 2019, troopers noticed a surge in graffiti on bridges, traffic signs and sound barriers along Interstate 5 and state routes in southern and central areas of the county, according to the news release.

Authorities began searching for the vandalism daily, taking photographs and reporting it to the Washington State Department of Transportation for removal. Troopers obtained search warrants for social media accounts, reviewed surveillance video and conducted interviews to identify the culprits.

Altogether, officials estimate that covering the spray paint in the county will cost the state transportation department more than $100,000 a year. Lanes of some of the thoroughfares might have to be shut down for crews to clean up some of the graffiti.

The state patrol is sharing the findings of the investigation with the state Attorney General’s Office, which could seek civil restitution for the damage. The information is also being passed on to local law enforcement agencies to help them catch other perpetrators of vandalism.

The state patrol will continue the probe and could refer more cases to prosecution, according to the news release.

The agency recommends that victims of such “urban” graffiti promptly report it and remove it. People who illegally spray paint public and private property often seek attention by posting photos on social media, and marking or painting over the graffiti “diminishes its photographic value,” according to the news release.

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