Pico Sheriff’s station focuses on graffiti, tagging

By Bethania Palma Markus, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/01/2009 06:02:10 AM PST

Probation officer Julie Longoria, left, with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Tony Romo, left center, and Deputy Tom Shultz, right, stop a juvenile tagger on Olympic Blvd. in Pico Rivera who is on probation. The Sheriff's Vandelism Enforcement Team (VET) has been focussing their efforts on graffiti and tagging. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger)

Probation officer Julie Longoria, left, with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Tony Romo, left center, and Deputy Tom Shultz, right, stop a juvenile tagger on Olympic Blvd. in Pico Rivera who is on probation. The Sheriff's Vandelism Enforcement Team (VET) has been focussing their efforts on graffiti and tagging. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger)

PICO RIVERA – The baby-faced teenager walking home from school wearing a black backpack looked like any other high school student.

But L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies and a deputy probation officer from the Pico Rivera station’s Vandalism Enforcement Team, or VET, saw more than met the eye Thursday. The youngster has been hanging around with taggers and gang members, and the team has been trying to intervene.

The team is the first of its kind and has been used as a model for programs in other parts of the county, officials said. It consists of different county agencies working closely together – four dedicated Sheriff’s deputies and a sergeant, a deputy probation officer and a deputy district attorney – all focused on crimes related to tagging and graffiti.

“This isn’t the city it used to be, where (taggers and gang members) can do what they want,” said L.A. County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Romo. “Now they know there’s a strong likelihood they’re going to get caught.”

The team, funded jointly by the county and city, focuses on fighting vandalism-related crime but also catching youngsters and changing their behavior before they become full-blown gang members, said L.A. County Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Rothans.

While graffiti tracking and abatement were already in practice, officials were galvanized by the 2007 murder of Maria Hicks, a 57-year-old grandmother who was shot and killed after she tried to stop gang members from tagging a wall near

her home, Rothans said.He created the program with County Supervisor Gloria Molina and City Manager Chuck Fuentes shortly after the Hicks murder, he said.

“By focusing on these types of crimes and catching taggers early, I think it’s really made a difference in the community,” he said.

Youngsters caught tagging are arrested by VET deputies, monitored by VET’s probation officer, and prosecuted by Araceli Otero, VET’s dedicated deputy district attorney, Rothans said.

“(Otero) is involved from the beginning to the end (of cases),” Rothans said. “She files the cases and often does vertical prosecution, meaning she takes it from the beginning to the end. It’s key because she knows this is our major concern and it’s hers as well.”

Youngsters and their parents are also given the option of attending family counseling and utilizing various other services, a program that has had a high success rate, Rothans said.

The point is to hold parents accountable and change behavior, he said.

Tagging is considered a “gateway crime” that leads to more serious, violent crimes, he said. The longer youngsters are into tagging, the higher the likelihood they’re involved in other types of criminal activity.

Overall crime is down by 15 percent since last year, and he attributes that in part to the team, officials said.

The team Thursday served a probation compliance search on a teenager’s home in the 9200 block of Olympic Boulevard.

“Are we going to have to cuff you or are you going to be compliant,” asked Deputy Probation Officer Julie Longoria, as she walked the boy into his home in the 9200 block of Olympic Boulevard.

After searching the teen’s room, Longoria carried out an armful of paper covered in tagging and a box of permanent markers.

Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Shultz pointed to a street sign near the home with the name of an area tagging crew scrawled in white letters.

“That’s the minor league for (an area gang),” he said.

That’s why the city has taken a different approach to vandalism, officials said.

“It doesn’t get treated as a minor offense,” Romo said. “It gets treated as a serious one.”

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7 Comments for “Pico Sheriff’s station focuses on graffiti, tagging”

  1. BeegLoco

    The cop in the jeans on the left side has a cute butt

  2. scruff

    I agree. I want her to sit on my face. That would be good.

  3. GOODLUCK WITH STOPPING THE GRAFFITTI IN WHITTIER IT AINT GONNA STOP ANY SOON….LOL

  4. FOCUS ON THE GANGS PICO RIVERA SHERIFFS WORRY BOUT GRAFFTTI ITS NOT A VOLENT CRIME I WAS A VICTIM OF A SHOOTING U SHERIFFS NEVER FOUND DAT CRIMINAL GO AFTER DEAD END LOCOS AND FMK

  5. well cops are soo dumb graffiti wont ever die it will gett worser if lapd trys to stop it cause new taggers are in he upriseinng everyday

  6. the truth is that graffiti wont die cause jerry carrera from the garage boardshop in ela atlantic n whittier supports illegal graffiti he buys stollen merch from taggers in pico riverra n other areas all his markers n graffiti supplies he sells to minors and ripps them off sellin nothinn butt stollen art supplies making hundreads of dollars he sells montana spraypaint to minors even lets kids drink in his so ”called”lounge hes a tottal non proffit scam and athieff also makes raves and sells drud=gs and alchohol to minors from hiss monster truck wich he sells skateboards usses it forr illegal purposess thiss man iss all over google also on ripp off people for hundreads of dollars scams and theft his companny name is carrera home customs

  7. 18STTINYLOKOS

    DAMN THAT COP HAS A SEXI FUKIN CULO IMA SLAP DAT sh*% YUMMI

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