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Bold taggers create spike in graffiti damage

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Bold taggers create spike in graffiti damage

Six to eight-foot-high tagging showed up on the church building at 601 East Yosemite Avenue Monday morning, too far up for the city’s graffiti abatement crew to reach it without an extension ladder...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletn

POSTED August 7, 2013 2:02 a.m.

The letters were scrawled along the building with spray paint.

Measuring nearly six feet tall, they were clearly identifiable to anybody passing by the relatively-busy intersection.

Ironically, they were plastered on the wall of a complex being used to offer youth an alternative to the street activities and criminality that at one time plagued the neighborhood that’s home to the church that hosts the program. It was just one of many public and private properties hit this past week by vandals armed with spray paint cans.

Taggers – those that deface private property for the sake of developing a reputation or spreading an alias that exists on the canvas that they see fit – are getting bolder.

And given the quick in-and-out nature of their crime, it’s often a cat-and-mouse game between patrol officers responding to calls by observant neighbors or concerned citizens and shifty vandals that spend very little time in the same place.

According to Manteca Police Department Sergeant Jodie Estarziau, any recent rise in the number of spray paint vandals coincides with an ongoing trend. Taggers, she said, will periodically hit public places – like the west-facing wall of the F.U.N. Club building the corner of Fremont Street and Yosemite Avenue – before a beefed up police presence or fed-up business owners take away the element of surprise.

Those that do it for recognition, she said, differ from the gang tags that appear in areas where rivals groups may be warring. But that doesn’t mean that vandalism doesn’t prompt more vandalism.

In some instances, she said, taggers will go and cross out the work of somebody else and plaster their own right next to it, further adding to the problem.

“Things like lighting and additional patrols tend to deter it,” Estarziau said. “Sometimes the taggers that you see are from out of town, and they hit one place and just move on so you have to catch them in the act. It’s something that we work to try and prevent as much as we can.”

Whether there has been a recent spike in the number of graffiti-related vandalism or not might be hard for the average citizen to determine. After the Manteca City Council adopted an ordinance that makes it the responsibility of individual property owners to remove graffiti or face financial penalties, very little stays visible for any period of time.

The city itself utilizes a combination of volunteers – the Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police, or SHARPs, have a graffiti abatement team – and maintenance crews to remove it from places like sound walls and park equipment.

When it’s along the railroad tracks the removal is up to Union Pacific. Several years ago the city pressured the railroad to move swifter after racist graffiti was plastered in plain sight of traffic along the tracks on Louise Avenue. Right-of-way issues make removal difficult and can be frustrating – especially when swastikas and obscene names replace a tagger’s calling card or even a gang signature.

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