In an effort to crack down on graffiti vandalism in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles police are forming a task force that will include law enforcement officers, city officials and representatives from the business community.
Graffiti spraying--called "tagging"--has received increased public attention since a 17-year-old student was shot to death last month on the Reseda High School campus, allegedly by a classmate, perhaps because of rivalry between graffiti tagging "posses."
More than 75 people, including Los Angeles police, local officials and residents, and representatives from numerous Valley chambers of commerce attended a meeting Wednesday at the YMCA in Van Nuys, Detective Craig Rhudy said. Also included in the group were law enforcement officials from Burbank, Glendale, the city of San Fernando and campus police from Valley colleges and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Reserve police officers and community volunteers will be asked to participate in the project by tracking down "identifiable" graffiti throughout the Valley and then encouraging property owners to file crime reports, Rhudy said.
"The graffiti is there," Rhudy said. "It's just not being reported."
Volunteers and officers will enter information into a computer, already donated by a local business, and then use the information they coordinate to nab and prosecute taggers, Rhudy said.
Rhudy emphasized the project will try to "gather information on taggers and prosecute them for graffiti they have done, rather than trying to catch them in the act."
In the last year, police detectives in Van Nuys have been operating a similar program, which so far has identified 250 suspected taggers in the Van Nuys area, Rhudy said. Police suspect that as many as 1,000 to 2,000 more such youths are spraying graffiti throughout the Valley.
Representatives from the district attorney's office also attended the meeting, said Rhudy, who said stiffer penalties will be sought for graffiti vandalism, including more time in jail for adults and harsher restitution judgments, tougher probation and community service for juveniles.
Rhudy said the task force solicited money at Wednesday's meeting from Valley chambers of commerce to help pay for cameras and film that will be used to record graffiti and to buy much-needed software to operate the computer.
Rhudy said those interested in volunteering to help can contact him at the Police Department's Van Nuys station at 989-8371.