Lodi police say a recent graffiti spree at American Legion Park may portend violence, as it reflects one gang clearly intruding on another gang’s territory.
It is possible the extensive graffiti, an obvious and public act of disrespect, could bring revenge, police say.
“We are concerned that this will cause retribution,” said Detective Larry Fluty, a gang enforcement officer with the Lodi Police Department. “And we’re doing everything we can to prevent that.”
The graffiti spree began last weekend when neighbors awoke to Sureño gang tags and obscenities scrawled across Legion Park on the 800 block of South Hutchins Street. Maintenance crews from Lodi’s graffiti abatement program spent several hours Monday morning removing paint from the park’s sidewalks, fountain, signs and bathroom.
But late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, despite increased police presence near the park, the tagger struck again, police said.
According to Fluty, Sureños rarely travel south of Lodi Avenue into Norteño territory. But not only did Sureños tag a park on a rival gang’s side of town, they made sure Norteños would notice, he said.
“I can’t remember a time either gang tagged their (gang symbols) this extensively,” Fluty said. “This was blatant disrespect.”
Norteños and Sureños have established territories within Lodi, Fluty added.
Sureño turf is located north of Lodi Avenue, east of Hutchins Street, south of Lockeford Street and west of Cherokee Lane.
Norteños, the much larger gang in Lodi, control everything south of Lodi Avenue. Essentially, Norteños are in the south and Sureños are in the north.
Fluty said the last example of a gang extensively tagging a rival gang’s neighborhood occurred about a year ago, when several Norteño gang members vandalized several sites on Sureño turf.
“Usually when they tag, they tag their own neighborhood,” Fluty said. “But on occasion they go into rival territory and disrespect their rival. And in this case, that’s what they are doing.”
Lodi police don’t believe a previous incident led to this latest graffiti surge, Fluty said. But on Wednesday, Lodi’s gang enforcement officers spoke with members of both gangs to sense the potential for upcoming retaliation.
Fluty said police also believe they’ve identified who’s responsible for the graffiti.
“We have a good idea who did it,” he said.
Police would likely need a confession to make an arrest.
“But we will explain to them that this is unacceptable and that we’re going to pay special attention to them from now on,” Fluty said.
In the meantime, police are trying to drench freshly lit flames.
“There’s always tension between gangs,” Fluty said. “But anything can set them off. It could be something as simple as an argument ... then it goes back and forth and it keeps getting more violent.”
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at email@example.com.