Unwanted Artwork

A worker jumps on the back of a train tagged with graffiti as it

Police offer reward for information leading to arrest of
Gilroy – In just minutes, Tim Collins erases the marks taggers leave behind.

Their weapons are grease pens, markers and cans of spray paint. His is a power sprayer. They mark up city walls, business windows and street signs, claiming territory and leaving behind glaring eyesores on community property. He cleans up the blight they leave behind.

A crew of taggers took advantage of the power outage last Thursday, covering 10th Street with their marks along a freshly painted fence, using the darkness as their shield.

“This is probably gang related,” Collins said, nodding towards the colorsplash of names and symbols.

A swirl of orange spray paint covers the name of one of the white tags – the mark of a Graffiti Watch volunteer who tried to camouflage the name.

“This is a big tag. It’s highly exposed. This guy was really looking for a big punch,” he said. “They’re taking a big chance to go down 10th Street.”

Police released a list of the six most wanted graffiti taggers. At least two participated in Thursday’s tagging crew and are wanted by for questioning. Reward money is available for information leading to the arrest of these individuals.

“This tagging crew has been tagging all over town,” said Community Services Officer Angela Lock-Paddon, who runs the graffiti abatement program at GPD. “They have these wars just to see who can get their name around town the most … We don’t want to give them any credit (by printing their tags), but we might have the chance to identify somebody.”

Though tagging is down considerably since the graffiti abatement program began several years ago, a recent increase has caused police to release photographs of the most wanted players.

Fresh graffiti appears everyday.

According to Lock-Paddon, usually when gang-related tagging increases, gang-related incidents increase as well. Police can actually read the tags and learn if something is going to happen.

There was an increase in gang-related taggings prior to the Oct. 28 gang-related shooting outside D-Mart that left two teens injured with gunshot wounds, she said.

Locke-Paddon photographs all graffiti reported and shows it to the Anti-Crime Team everyday. She is familiar with many of the major players because of this tracking system.

Any new names and symbols that appear are noted.

“We don’t know what (LSG) is,” she said noting one of the newer tags. “That is something that concerns me. I want to find out what that is.”

But not all graffiti is gang-related and the average person does not know the difference.

“Tagging instills fear,” Lock-Paddon said. “People don’t want to live in a neighborhood where there’s tagging. They don’t want to shop at a store with taggings.”

Econo Furniture store owner Dan Taraghi has had to paint over taggings at least seven times since he opened the place.

“It’s just annoying,” Taraghi said. “Years ago it was bad, but it’s much better now.”

The wall facing Sixth Street is spattered with patches of discoloration. Areas where glossy white paint was applied to cover tags glisten in the sunlight against the matte finish – a hint of blue writing still visible underneath.

He was last victimized four months ago. The company car was even tagged.

“We had to repaint the truck,” he said.

The city does not pay for businesses to paint over graffiti, but city ordinance requires businesses and homes hit with graffiti to paint over the markings within 48 hours.

“I’m paying all these taxes for protection and look what happens,” Taraghi said.

He believes every time he’s hit with taggings that it effects business.

“That’s why we’re really prompt about removing it. When I’m here I don’t let it sit for even minutes,” he said.

To report it:

• To report graffiti in progress, call 911.

• To report old graffiti, call the graffiti

hotline at 846-0395.

• To volunteer for graffiti cleanup with Wipeout Watch, call 846-0525.

• Wipe Out Watch volunteers meet the first Wednesday of each month at the Neighborhood Resource Unit

at Christmas Hill Park at 12pm.

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