Dozens arrested in San Jose graffiti crackdown

SAN JOSE, Calif.

San Jose police say the HYSU tagging crew is responsible for about half of the graffiti around the city. They go on bombing runs, stuffing backpacks with spray cans, gloves and pre written slap tags. Thye've even posted videos of their activities on YouTube.

"They'll go out and cover as much territory as they can and put as much paint as anywhere and everywhere they can along with slap tags and whatever ink and can get out," San Jose Police Sgt. Kenneth Davis said.

Police arrested four HYSU suspects and charged them with some 60 counts of felony vandalism. Investigators say this faction of the HYSU crew is responsible for at least $50,000 in property damage in the last three months and qualify for a gang enhancement.

"They are greater than three, they're activities are felony conduct and they are doing these activities for the furtherance of a criminal street gang," deputy district attorney Anne Seery said.

Bill Cullen and his Willow Street business are repeat victims of gang graffiti.

"It's as close to being robbed as I can guess is the emotional reaction, it's a violation," he said.

Police say the taggers get a thrill out of literally defacing entire cities.

"They want people to know their crew was out there, and that they're crew is tagging everywhere; it's the fame," Davis said.

Prison time, though, may be the kind of attention they don't want.

Budget cuts have made it harder to fight gang graffiti in San Jose but this latest operation resulted in a total of 50 arrests. And despite limited resources, the department is not letting up.

"I think you see the message being sent to the tagging crews out there, that not only will we still investigate it, but you will also be charged with a gang enhancement," San Jose Police Asst. Chief Rikki Goede said.

The four HYSU defendants could face sentences between 12 and 30 years in prison.

Although graffiti has become a major issue in San Jose in recent years, police feel the recent crackdown will make a difference.

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