VENTURA — Vandals scratched the display windows of most stores along four downtown blocks this week, leaving thousands of dollars in damage and prompting store owners to demand more security from the city.
Most of the windows between the San Buenaventura Mission and Foster Library were scratched with a key, a sharp rock or a screwdriver during two nights of vandalism. The incidents occurred Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The marks made on at least 63 of 89 shops were believed to be the work of taggers, youth groups who paint or mark their signatures on public places, not gangs, according to Lt. Carl Handy of the Ventura Police Department.
"Gang graffiti is meant to glorify, memorialize or challenge," he said. "While taggers don't do it to create turf wars, they do it for recognition. Taggers aren't going to start shooting at each other."
The vandals would face steep fines and hours of community service if they are convicted, Handy said. If they are under 18, he said, their parents will be held liable.
The vandalism comes at a time when downtown is in the midst of a redevelopment campaign.
"The thing that is so upsetting is that the city wanted this redevelopment and we stuck with them through construction and everything else and now they can't even protect our stores," said Pamela Dunn, owner of Economy Upholstery. "We're sitting ducks."
Pointing at her damaged store window, which will cost $300 to replace, Dunn said: "This is the third time in a year and a half I've had to replace one of these. What do I have to do, sit in my window with a gun?"
Two police officers patrol downtown throughout the day. At night, officers randomly patrol Main Street along with other parts of the city.
"The bottom line is it would take five people to have someone there" all the time, Handy said.