City employees spent Monday morning scrubbing unsightly gang graffiti off walls, a fountain, sidewalks and signs at Lodi’s American Legion Park. And chances are the same people will clean the same park again within weeks, if not days.
Routinely, citizens awake to gang tags and obscene curse words scrawled across the neighborhood park along Hutchins and Vine streets.
Neighbors have noticed a recent rise in criminal activity at the park. And this latest incident has forced police and city staff to examine new ways to prevent hoodlums from defacing it.
“It’s tagged on a pretty regular basis,” said Jeff Hood, Lodi’s Park, Recreation and Cultural Services director. “I don’t know why it’s become such an important element in this group’s existence. But we can’t stop trying to remove (graffiti), because we’re not going to let them claim it for their turf.”
Hood called Saturday night’s graffiti spree “a lot worse” than recent vandalism at the park.
Sureño tags and obscenities covered all four walls of the park’s brick bathroom. They also lined the base of a fountain and stretched across a sign near the front of the park.
Nick Romero, who works for Lodi’s graffiti abatement program, cleaned all the graffiti Monday morning, but despite his best efforts, faint paint residue still appeared on the bathroom walls.
“I don’t see why people do this,” he said. “I live in Lodi and I hate to see this stuff in my town.”
Residents who live near the park felt the same way.
Dave and Janet Perryman, who had a clear view of Saturday’s graffiti from their front porch, said they’ve noticed an increase in gang activity at the park within the past year.
“It seems like there are more people hanging out late at night,” Jane Perryman said. “It’s been steadily escalating.”
The park was last tagged only two weeks ago. Shortly before then, the park’s sign needed to be replaced after being vandalized. Earlier this year, the park was tagged four nights in a row.
Hood said the park has been routinely vandalized even after the city hired park patrol officers in May.
“Certainly this is going to be part of their patrol, but the problem is they can’t be everywhere at all times,” he said.
The city is discussing new measures to hopefully reduce the common graffiti, including installing video cameras and painting park buildings with anti-graffiti coating, which would allow workers to simply wipe off any paint.
Lodi police are also devising new measures to combat vandalism.
The department could increase gang enforcement as well as patrol the area more frequently, said Lodi Police Lt. Sierra Brucia.
“We have some other options to hopefully prevent this,” he said.
The motive for Saturday’s incident is still a mystery, Brucia said.
It could be gang members marking their turf, “wannabe” gang members trying to make a name for themselves, or a gang member recently released from jail and letting people know they’re back in town.
Brucia said that gang-related crime is down from last year, and the graffiti isn’t necessarily a sign that it will increase.
“It goes through phases,” he said.
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.