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Gang graffiti

Compared to other gangs, the Howe Park Sueño and Howe Park Norteño gangs are not major leaguers. But they are not particularly nice people, they thrive on the abundance of at-risk youth hereabouts, and they have little or no regard for the community. Some years back they used Howe Park as the venue for their territory-claiming contests -- hence their names. In response, the Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District (FEC) established a Park Police program to ensure Howe Park and other public parks would not become "dead parks" like the graffiti-covered parks in parts of Los Angeles that had been essentially ceded to the gangs. The District did so because the Sheriff's Department had not regarded local park safety as a priority within the grand scheme of things; their plates were full.  With the passage of time, the FEC Park Police program proved to be a success, so much so that other local park districts now contract with FEC to patrol their parks too.  In fact, the Park Police have been so effective that FEC has been told by public safety grant funders that FEC's parks are too safe to qualify for grants for things like graffiti abatement and gang control.

The Sueños and Norteños were harassed so much, and for so long, by the Park Police that they learned to take their territorial games onto fences and walls in the nearby housing areas instead -- areas that are the responsibility of the Sheriff's Department. People who have attended the Sheriff's bi-monthly meetings know the Sheriff's Gang Detail works hard at trying to keep the gang problem in check.  They tell the public to promptly report graffiti, to call 311 or use the 311 AP, and to paint over the graffiti right away. It's a little unsettling, then, to learn from the Arden-Arcade & Carmichael Neighborhood Watch people that graffiti (see photo below) was reported by phone to 311, to the Sheriff's non-emergency number, to our Supervisor's staff and her Chief of Staff, all with no response.

Graffiti is how gangs advertise. It matters to the gang that their markings are visible for days on end. It is thus a rule of thumb in community policing that graffiti should be painted over within 1 day of discovery so as to teach gangs that graffiti isn't tolerated. The gang graffiti in the photo was all over a residential fence and stayed up for almost 4 days after citizens reported it. How long does graffiti stay up in "nice" neighborhoods? If gang graffiti isn't dealt with promptly in a neighborhood of "affordable" residences, will it spread further in the community? 

Gang graffiti on a residential fence at Wyda and Bell. It was first put up by the Norteños, then claimed by the Sueños. Painting over this graffiti is a tall order for an individual resident or a small business, which is why there are public graffiti abatement programs. Sad to say, this graffiti did not get abated for several days, which means the fence is likely to get hit again. And maybe the stop sign will, along with other visible features in the vicinity. Not good, folks, not good... {photo credit: Arden-Arcade & Carmichael Neighborhood Watch page on Facebook}