In Santa Clarita, the writing's off the wall.
It's been a busy year in the crime prevention and detective bureaus, especially when the criminals keep leaving written - or as some describe them, scrawled - reminders of their arrogance.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's station and the City of Santa Clarita's Graffiti Task Force just released their report for 2009. More than 6,000 people called to report graffiti on their businesses and in their neighborhoods during 2009 and responders - both volunteers and city staff - removed 7,503 tags from public view during that 12-month period.
Canyon Country led the list of areas in the city receiving attention with 1,997 calls, followed by Newhall with 1,820; Valencia with 1,655 and Saugus with 421. The cleanup crews also visited 182 sites in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. The top five tagged surfaces? Walls, utility boxes, sidewalks, bridges and washes, in that order.
Sheriff's deputies were busy, arresting 177 graffiti vandals - 107 juveniles and 70 adults, including six prolific taggers responsible for more than $42,000 in damages all by themselves.
The Graffiti Removal crew observed some new trends in 2009, including increased tagging on paseos, use of acrylic markets, growth in the number of "oners" or individuals that tag on their own, independent of crews or gangs and increased tagging on bus shelters in all communities of Santa Clarita.
With the increase in paseo tagging, the Task Force recruited four volunteers to walk the City's trails and paseos to detect and clean up graffiti. Staff is continuing this recruitment effort to keep ahead of the offenders.
Thirty-six notices were issued to property owners who were tagged or were displaying graffiti and all of them cleaned up the unwanted markings within seven days. Deputies also made routine checks of home improvement stores to make sure they are in compliance with regulations governing storage of spray paint and markers.
Part of the program's success can be traced back to partnerships and outreach efforts conducted by the City and sheriff's department. More than 1,900 students from schools, the Newhall Community Center and 75 adults participated in graffiti awareness presentations in 2009. Information on graffiti abatement is available on the City's website, the sheriff's webpage and the website of the William S. Hart High School District.
Students and other volunteers put their muscle behind the message during more than a dozen Teens Against Graffiti (TAG) projects, when more than 1,200 volunteers removed more than 900 tags from the City's wash channels. In one project, 60 percent of the Whites Canyon wash, where a significant amount of graffiti had been found, was painted one congruent color, eliminating the "patchwork" often seen from the street.
Corporate collaboration also led to some successes during 2009, including work done by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for graffiti removal from the Los Angeles Aqueduct; College of the Canyons campus security using the eGraffiti database and keeping staff apprised of new taggers vandalizing the school; Los Angeles County workers removing graffiti in unincorporated areas and utilities AT&T, Edison and Time Warner removing graffiti and repainting utility boxes quickly to discourage taggers looking for long-term exposure.