SJ tackles non gang-related graffiti problem

(Graffiti removal crews are tackling a noticeable spike in other kinds of graffiti.)

January 14, 2011 7:25:14 PM PST
If you live in San Jose, or spend much time there, you may have noticed a sharp increase in the amount of graffiti. But this time gangs are not primarily responsible for it.

Gang graffiti in San Jose makes up about 15 percent of the graffiti vandalism and that number is pretty consistent. Graffiti removal crews however, are tackling a noticeable spike in other kinds of graffiti.

"These are teen tagging crews. They go from place to place, initials, that sort of thing. Where they can find a place to do it, they will do it, strictly spray it and go," Mona Favorite from the City of San Jose Parks and Recreation Department said.

It is what you might call 'spray can scribble' and regardless of the message, the result is malicious property destruction.

"You can see the pole right there. It's got all sorts of stuff on it, doesn't appear to be gang related. Sometimes they'll just tag the mailboxes," tagging victim Juan Salazar said.

The most recent numbers support what many people are seeing with their own eyes. In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, city crews removed 101,000 graffiti tags. The following year, the tag removal jumped to 148,000.

To break it down another way, in the last year the calls to the graffiti hotline went from an average of 166 a week to 200 a week.

While the tagging crews don't threaten violence like gang members, they often compete for volume and take pride in marking hard to reach places.

"The stuff you did in the morning you'll notice it come back and it's tagged again. It's a never ending battle," Andy Dalton from the anti-graffiti program said.

The city spends $1.5 million a year undoing graffiti damage and despite budget cuts takes pride in painting over gang graffiti within 24 hours of it being reported.