City’s graffiti tab increases 

With many looking to make their mark by unleashing spray paint on a wall or taking markers to a garage door, South San Francisco is working feverishly to make sure nobody knows the culprits were there.

The city has spent nearly $100,000 over the last seven years cleaning up graffiti including a high of $27,000 a year ago, which city officials attributed to an increase in incidents as well as the logging of vandalism incidents more thoroughly.

And with two recent arrests, South City police are cracking down on the "artists" in an effort to keep the city clean from "tags," the personalized signature of an artist’s name in either spray paint or markers.

Public Works Director Terry White said the recent jump in costs to the city could be explained by a rise in graffiti and worker crews actively tracking their cleanup jobs. The expenses to the city are "probably lower than they really are" because every cleanup is not always noted by workers, White said.

"My gut tells me that every year, graffiti ratchets up a little more and a little more," White said. The city has tried to pre-empt the practice through such measures as graffiti coating, a clear-coating substance that keeps the paint from sticking or absorbing into the material, making it easier to clean.

In the last month, South San Francisco police arrested three individuals, all male and under the age of 20, on charges relating to graffiti vandalism. On March 24, 19-year-olds Nicolas Serrano, of South City, and Adam Baggetta, of San Bruno, were arrested near the 400 block of Alida Way after having freshly tagged electrical boxes with "SAVZ" in black ink and "GRIZ" in red ink. A search of their car discovered more than 12 cans of spray paint to go along with the markers they possessed.

On March 7, police arrested a 14-year-old male, who was associated with the tag "CAL" and the tagging group dubbed "RDK," after he marked up electrical boxes, a commercial vehicle, a business, a mailbox and street signs near West Orange Avenue.

South City police have arrested 15 people so far this year in vandalism-related cases. In 2006, they made 51 arrests, three less than in 2005, according to police.

Gangs also use graffiti to mark territory and incite fights, something the police are increasingly aware of as the once predominantly Norteño gang town sees more Sureño gang members move in.

White said the last two months have "been really bad" with "serious graffiti attacks" in areas like Westborough Park where nearly everything had been spray painted. But in other areas that have seen a lot of graffiti, the efforts by the city are noticeable, residents said.

Rick Gomez, president of Historic Old Town Homeowners and Renters Association, said that while two years ago was bad for graffiti in the area, there has not been too much lately.

"Most of the graffiti you can’t even read it,"Gomez said.

Those reporting graffiti vandalism, should call the Police Department as soon as possible at (650) 877-8900.

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