Graffiti sweep makes 42 arrests, grabs weapons, drugs

By Daniel Tedford, Pasadena Star-News Staff Writer
Posted: 03/25/2009 09:33:14 AM PDT

MONTEREY PARK – A machete, shotguns, rifles, homemade nunchakus, knifes: not exactly what you expect to turn up during a raid geared toward graffiti artists.

Sheriff’s deputies and local police departments stressed the connection between violence and graffiti Wednesday in a probation sweep that netted more than 40 arrests.

“It is a pressure system gangs use to recruit personnel,” said Lt. Tom Delgado of Pasadena’s Special Enforcement Section. “There is a tremendous connect (between gang violence and graffiti). People don’t understand how big that problem actually is.”

Wednesday’s sweep targeted 164 locations countywide, including dozens in Temple City, Pasadena and Altadena.

Two misdemeanor arrests were made in Pasadena, one firearm, one felony and three misdemeanor arrests was notched by police in Altadena, and one felony arrest was made in Temple City. No firearms were found in Temple City or Pasadena.

In all, more than 300 sheriff’s deputies, police and law enforcement staff were involved in the sweep that arrested 42 people; 30 for felonies, 22 for violating probation, and one for state parole violation. Weapons and drugs were also recovered during the sweep.

“One wouldn’t think graffiti would be accompanied by so many firearms – that is indeed the case,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. “People involved with graffiti and tagging aren’t innocent of the violence.”

Often called “tag bangers” Baca and other law enforcement officials acknowledged graffiti vandalism is a gateway for individuals intent on joining gangs and participating in violent lifestyles.

Deputies plan to have more sweeps to show taggers they won’t be tolerated, Baca said.

“They want people to know who they are and now we know who they are,” Baca said. “Taggers don’t have any common sense. Common sense says find a better way of expressing yourself.”

Baca pointed specifically to a Van Nuys tagger often known as Asko or Sloter, who was arrested Wednesday. Asko is suspected of being responsible for about $7,000 in damage to MTA buses through tagging, Baca said.

Joint efforts by county officers and local agencies is the best way to combat the problem and to see an effort like the one on Wednesday is encouraging, Delgado said.

“We will see (graffiti) drastically come down is when we see law enforcement and the judicial system work together and hold people accountable,” Delgado said.

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