Is gang activity to blame for rise in graffiti in Laguna?

The Orange County Register

LAGUNA BEACH – The South Laguna Civic Association has sent a letter to the Laguna Beach City Council, urging members to take action against “gang-related graffiti” the association says has regularly defaced a dilapidated property on Thousand Steps Beach along South Coast Highway.

“As pointed out by (journalist) Malcolm Gladwell … graffiti invites more and more unacceptable behavior,” the group’s president, Bill Rihn, wrote. “Cleaning up graffiti sends a strong message to everyone that the local citizens care greatly about their environment.”

But city officials and police were quick to attribute the graffiti – which includes slogans such as “Kill cops” and “Live fast and die young” – to mischievous youths.

“Our code-enforcement officer went down and looked, and he doesn’t believe it’s gang-related,” City Manager Ken Frank said. “We don’t have any gangs that operate or are based in Laguna Beach, as far as I know. … The likelihood of gang members at that beach is so remote – the whole beach is closed at night, with only one set of stairs.”

The building’s owner plans to demolish it sometime this year, Frank added.

Though Rihn admits he’s not an expert on graffiti, he said some of the tags suggest gangs from San Clemente or Dana Point are passing through or loitering near the facility.

“‘SC Boys’ – that’s what led me to believe it’s gang-related,” he said of a repeated tag on the building. “Sounds like ‘San Clemente’ to me.

“I don’t know – is a couple of kids goofing around more or less serious than gang-related (graffiti)?” Rihn said. “Either way, I don’t like graffiti.”

UC Irvine associate professor Cheryl Maxson, a specialist in delinquent- and gang-related crime, called the possibility of gang activity in Laguna “unusual, but not unheard of.”

“Typically, gangs emerge in communities that are disadvantaged, and become maintained or expand as a result of conflicts with outside groups,” she said. “There’s an awful lot of mimicry that goes on – these days, you don’t have to have direct contact with street gangs to know what gang culture is like. It’s really all over the media.”

Sgt. Jason Kravetz of the Laguna Beach Police Department said: “Laguna Beach does not have a homegrown gang. As any city would have, I’m sure there are some who pass through the town from time to time, and we do our best to stop them – but it’s definitely not a nightly occurrence.

“Most of the graffiti-type arrests have usually been juveniles out tagging things with their own words or sayings,” he added. “They have not been organized gang members.”

Maxson said, “You want to be careful, both in media coverage as well as school and police reactions, to not react in a way that would solidify (the taggers’) oppositional orientation.”

Posted by on Apr 14 2009. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Is gang activity to blame for rise in graffiti in Laguna?”

  1. emop

    187 LO BOY…..SAlinAz SICCnESs

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