PALMDALE — Two teen-age brothers, accused of causing more than $130,000 in property damage during a tagging spree over the past year, were being held Tuesday on suspicion of felony vandalism.
The teen-agers, ages 14 and 16, allegedly tagged more than 100,000 square feet of block walls, curbs, street signs, abandoned buildings and other surfaces throughout Palmdale, said Sheriff's Deputy Mike McNeil.
McNeil, who investigated the crimes as part of the local Partners Against Crime team, said the youths were arrested Monday at their home. The boys admitted they had been involved in tagging incidents, he said.
"It's hard to say whether they were remorseful because they were caught or whether they were proud of it," said McNeil. "I don't think they realized the amount of damage until we told them. They both looked pretty shocked."
The boys are believed to be part of the "TE" tagging crew, made up of about 50 juveniles and adults, McNeil said. The initials stand for "too evil" or "tough enough."
Deputies believe one of the brothers took part last weekend in a "tagging war," in which two crews competed to see who could mark the most places in the Antelope Valley. Two adults and one other juvenile tagger were arrested Saturday night in connection with that contest, which caused more than $30,000 damage in Palmdale alone, deputies said.
The two brothers, whose names were withheld because of their ages, were arrested after investigators sought to track down the taggers who were leaving a particular moniker next to their "TE" crew symbol.
Deputies searched one Palmdale neighborhood that had continuing tagging problems and learned that the two brothers had just moved from that area to another neighborhood. The investigators soon saw the same type of graffiti turning up in the boys' new neighborhood.
"We finally found some people who would identify these two juveniles and had actually seen them painting tags and graffiti," McNeil said.
The brothers were being held Tuesday at Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
To combat its tagging problems, Palmdale employs two full-time workers to remove graffiti soon after it is discovered. City workers keep records of the tags to assist deputies in their investigations.
Under a new city law, Palmdale also can require parents to pay for damage caused by their children. Assistant City Manager Ron Creagh said the city has obtained partial or full restitution in three or four recent graffiti cases.
McNeil said he hopes the recent arrests will send a message to local taggers. "I think it will make an impression on the other kids, that the cities are not going to stand for this," he said. "We're going to put those involved in jail."