Business owners in Chatsworth are considering hiring a private security force to patrol commercial areas, part of a swelling Valleywide citizen effort to put a stop to graffiti.
Hampered by a lack of manpower in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles police have turned to shop owners and neighborhood groups for help in gathering evidence to prosecute taggers.
The Chatsworth Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Committee is one of several groups that has risen to the call by forming a volunteer surveillance group.
But Dick Pearson, a local real estate manager and head of the Chatsworth group, said members want to go a step beyond documenting graffiti. At a recent meeting, they voted to ask local business owners to donate money for private patrols.
"(With) as many business owners (as) graffiti affects, it's the No. 1 issue," Pearson said.
Members will make a decision in coming weeks on whether they can generate enough support to afford regular patrols of Chatsworth by guards in cars.
In a related effort, Pearson said members of the committee will also attend a police training seminar on documenting graffiti, on May 4, at 7 p.m., in the Balboa Sports Center gym at 17105 Burbank Blvd. The seminar is the first training session for the Valley Tagger Task Force, a citizen group organized by police to spot and photograph graffiti, Detective Craig Rhudy said.
The task force represents a shift in police efforts to control graffiti, Rhudy said. Officers have been focusing on trying to catch taggers in the act, "but that's very labor-intensive," Rhudy said. Now, police are hoping to match suspected taggers in the area with the names that appear in photographs of graffiti taken by volunteer watchdogs.