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What Would You Do if You Spotted a Tagger in the Act?

My alley was tagged and I wished I had been around to try and photograph the criminals in the act. Then a man was shot two nights later a mile away after reportedly trying to do the same thing.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

LABornAndRaised October 07, 2012 at 12:35 AM
When I first moved to NoHo a few years ago, there was a pretty bad graffiti problem. I found an online tool (because calling 311 can be a pain sometimes). I was aggressive for a month or so in getting the graffiti removed and notifying the city if it came back. Nowadays, it's once in a blue moon when I see graffiti. I still do my monthly stroll, walking around the neighborhood, writing down addresses with graffiti and it's paying off. Here's the link for anyone that wants to clean up their neighborhood: http://anti-graffiti.lacity.org. They come within a day or 2. Sometimes, even same day.
David Rivers October 07, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Yeah, that's a great resource. Some taggers have even resorted to tagging the sidewalks since it's less obvious, but the city will clean that up too. If you see tagging on the sidewalk, report it too. Don't let the douchebags win. I too have noticed a huge decrease in tagging lately. It helps to have citizens who care.
Craig Clough (Editor) October 07, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Thanks for the tip, I hadn't heard of the website before. And hats off to you for being so proactive in fighting the problem.
Tristen Ngo October 07, 2012 at 12:51 AM
I didn't have a true appreciation for NoHo until I recently visited Koreatown. There may be some tagging here and there in NoHo, but in Koreatown, I was just overwhelmed by it. It was on the trees (I mean who tags a tree?), walls, sidewalks, you name it. Thanks for the link BTW; I'll start using it.
Tristen Ngo October 07, 2012 at 12:54 AM
BTW, that's pretty impressive how close they got the color to match in that photo.
Craig Clough (Editor) October 07, 2012 at 12:57 AM
It is! I was very impressed. You wouldn't even know that the building had been tagged.
Bob Peppermuller October 07, 2012 at 07:05 PM
First if I saw taggers I would call 911. New Directions For Youth. Great organization. When they came on my street to cover graffiti I walked over and gave them a big thank you. If you see them give them a thank you. They deserve it. I watched them mix the colors and they are darn good at it.
Craig Clough (Editor) October 07, 2012 at 07:20 PM
You are right Bob, New Directions is a really impressive organization. We have profiled them here on Patch before. Aside from graffiti removal they do gang intervention as well as work with pregnant teens and many other services. Check out our past story - http://patch.com/A-lYYG
Joanna October 10, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I just used the link above to report the 14st gang graffiti in the alley between Cartwight and Denny near Whitnall Dog park. So nifty!
Shant K. October 11, 2012 at 06:33 AM
Craig, my house is also adjacent to an alley and I have to deal with new graffiti on a monthly basis. Before discovering 'New Directions For Youth', I used to paint over the graffiti myself and the wall of my property looked pretty ugly because there was different patches/shades of paint. However, after the first time I called 'New Directions' this summer, they repainted the entire wall that along the alley and not just the graffiti. Every time I have called them ever since, they don't need any details to come out. I just give them my address, and they take care of it in a day or two.
Bob Peppermuller October 11, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Same here. I used pumice gray over the whole wall and that seemed to be a background taggers didn't like and I didn't have mixed colors on the wall. As I said above New Directions is great.
Iron Lady October 13, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I walk everyday on Chandler Blvd. from Colfax to Coldwater Canyon. I am surprised that in the past 2 years, the sidewalk has been riddled with graffiti! Even walls of the Orange line. Sometimes Metro would be quick to clean it up the following day but I noticed they haven't painted over the 5-month graffiti near Vantage. Is there really any solution to this? Or are we just to call the graffiti hotline every time we see one. Used to see tagging on the billboards by Magnolia & Laurel Canyon. As soon as a new ad is put up, there would be a tag the following morning!
robert October 19, 2012 at 07:16 AM
I live on chandler near laurel canyon. I have seen an increase in tagging in the past couple months and an increase of shady looking people. Just a year ago, it was so nice and everyone was friendly. Now I see allot of gangster looking people and increased tagging between chandler and magnolia. Beware, they are now starting to drift below Oxnard street. If they are drifting below Oxnard, then they will definitely drift down to the 101.
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