About two weeks ago, someone or several people tagged the alley behind my apartment building in Valley Village. It wasn't much of an operation, just three letters sprayed around the alley in several locations, including my apartment's garage. The letters were also on a few other buildings and some garbage cans.
My first thought was I wished I had witnessed them doing it. From my kitchen window I could have easily spotted the crime in progress, grabbed my camera and gotten some pictures of the individuals that would have helped the Los Angeles Police Department catch these punks.
Two days later, my heart sank into my stomach when I read this opening line of a story reported here on North Hollywood Patch: A 50-year-old man who tried using his cellphone to photograph two suspected gang members tagging on a wall at Hatteras Street and Tujunga Avenue Tuesday was shot in the calf, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
This shooting occurred about a mile (as the crow flies) from my home. It's a long mile, separated by the 170 Freeway, and the neighborhood where the shooting happened suffers from some gang problems, while my Valley Village neighborhood is one of the safest in Los Angeles and has rarely had incidents of violence over the last few years considered gang related.
Still, a mile is a just mile, and the shooting gave me some serious pause about how wise it would have been to try and photograph the taggers in my alley. I'm pretty certain my taggers were just punk kids, but how do I know? It could have been some gang members or the very same gutless cowards who shot that poor guy. And exactly how much danger could I have put myself and my family in if they had seen me taking their picture from my kitchen window?
I forget sometimes how serious tagging is in the San Fernando Valley. Where I come from in the Twin Cities area, taggers are just punk kids causing petty vandalism. But here in LA, the difference between tagging crews and violent criminal gangs is often zero, and these gangs are causing millions in damage and also taking lives.
Over the last decade, deadly wars among tagging crews have escalated. This year, the Court of Appeal affirmed the convictions of two people involved in the gang-related 2006 murder of 18-year-old Walter Lopez, who was shot in the back in North Hollywood with a shotgun by a group of rival taggers beefing over turf. See the story here:
- Court Upholds Convictions in 2006 North Hollywood Gang-Related Murder
See these past Patch stories for more about tagging problems in North Hollywood and the SFV:
- City Settles Injuction Lawsuit Targeting Notorious Tagging Crew
I'd like to think of myself as someone capable of heroic acts like Israel Alvarez, the tow truck driver with Archer's Towing who was honored by the LAPD North Hollywood Division in 2010 for doing things like this:
One day while driving, he spotted someone tagging a building and not only radioed his dispatch, but he got out and approached the suspect from behind.
"You better drop that can," Alvarez remembers telling the tagger.
Alvarez must really know how to deliver an intimidating line because he got the suspect to drop the can and sit on his knees until the police arrived.
However, after hearing of the man who was shot recently, I think I might save my heroics for something else. I'm not sure it's worth getting killed over.
Within two days, several workers from New Directions For Youth in North Hollywood came out and painted over the graffiti (see photo) in my alley. I happened to spot them painting over the graffiti and talked to them. They told me New Directions is contracted by the city to remove graffiti in the area when someone calls 311 to report it.
I think if I happen to spot any taggers in the act I will just call 911, then 311.