Graffiti grief in Serra Mesa addressed by SDPD detective

Residents organized to paint over it

SDPD detective Bryan Hewitt
  • SDPD detective Bryan Hewitt

At the Serra Mesa Library on April 16, SDPD detective Bryan Hewitt of the Gangs Unit spoke about some of the graffiti problems in the department’s Eastern Division.

The meeting attracted about 50 people. Residents spoke during the meeting, but people contacted afterward said they feared retaliation and did not want to be identified for this story.

In Linda Vista, some residents cover up graffiti with free paint from the City of San Diego, "buckets" of white paint from the Urban Corps of San Diego, and paint that they purchase. City paint selections are limited. "Everything else is blue, copper, silver, and many shades of beige. We carry [paint cans with] different colors," a woman told Hewitt.

After hearing about the Linda Vista woman's efforts to eradicate graffiti, Hewitt said, "I hope that's a last resort" and suggested that she instead get the City of San Diego involved. Residents should call the graffiti hotline 619-525-8522 to report tagging on public or private property, said Hewitt.

Tools used to investigate the vandalism include Graffiti Tracker, an online database of graffiti photographs that tracks and helps prosecute taggers. Hewitt said the database includes information about San Diego, other parts of this country, and extends "up to Canada."  The service includes analysis that could match a tagger with one or more acts of vandalism.

"Whether it's Serra Mesa or San Marcos, it's not like Monopoly,” said Hewitt. “They don't pass ‘Go,’ they don't collect $200; they go to jail."  

The city is responsible for removing graffiti on public property such as curbs; residents and businesses are responsible for graffiti on private property. Hewitt cautioned against removing graffiti without notifying the property owner; that could result in a lawsuit.

Property owners are responsible for removing graffiti; failure to do so in a timely manner could result in a ticket for "maintaining graffiti on property,” said Hewitt.

A San Carlos woman said the city isn't always responsive about vandalism reports. She said that Caltrans quickly removed the graffiti on a wall off SR-125, but there was no action after several weeks of calls to the city about graffiti behind the L.A. Fitness building on Navajo Road.

"We just got out and painted it. We just hoped for a quicker response," she said.  "We called Urban Corps," an organization that also has a graffiti hotline. Urban Corps (619-235-6884) also offers graffiti-removal service.

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Painting walls just leaves a blank slate for the next "artist" who comes along. There is a way to combat graffiti. It would involve adding up all of the cost of it, hitting the "artist" with a felony for the dollar amount, and sending them a bill. If the "artist" is a minor, send the parents the bill. But that "wouldn't be fair", right? They're "non-violent", so they won't see more than maybe a few days in jail. They're "low-income", so it would be "pointless" and "heartless" to send them a bill for $10,000 So what's the actual penalty?

We get the society we deserve, not the one we wish for. Accepting and excusing anti-social acts means we get more anti-social acts.

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