Friday, 24 May 2024

Lucerne responds to graffiti with cleanup, organizing

 

Meanwhile, Lucerne residents have cleaned up the graffiti and are working to secure the neighborhoods.


On Nov. 29, the Lake County Sheriff's Office detectives arrested a 16-year-old Lucerne resident in connection with the series of graffiti taggings that reportedly began around the start of October.


LCSO reported at that time the teen was charged with felony vandalism.


The Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, Lucerne Harbor Park, Clearlake Queen, Lucerne Tower Mart, street signs and vehicles, were marked with the words "SIDA" or "SIDA is watching." The suspect allegedly used spray paint, homemade stickers and Sharpie markers.

 

During the spate of taggings, town residents were seen painting over the graffiti, only to have it reappear in a few days.

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Some success in the investigation may be credited to a local teen who found the alleged tagger on MySpace.com, where he had reportedly posted pictures of his graffiti. Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed that his detectives used MySpace.com in the investigation.


Search warrants served in the investigation, headed by Det. Brian Kenner, yielded the alleged tools for the graffiti - along with the teen's confession.


But although the main suspect in the case was arrested, other graffiti has continued and, in many cases, worsened.


Reactionary graffiti began almost immediately, including what appeared to be male genitalia urinating on the SIDA symbol. After much of the SIDA graffiti was covered over, in some cases it was replaced by the letters "OVC."


In some areas, Nazi swastikas appeared with threatening messages relating to SIDA.


Mitchell said the teen, who is home-schooled, admitted to detectives that "he was bored."


Because of juvenile sentencing rules, it appears unlikely that the teen or his family will end up being ordered to make restitution equaling the total amount of damage.


The California Compensation and Government Claims Board reports that the restitution fine structure for juvenile offenders is no less than $100 and no more than $1,000 for felony convictions.


In this case, LCSO reported approximately 30 victims in the Lucerne area and another five in Ukiah, with a total estimated damage at $5,000.


J.J. Jackson, the senior center's executive director, said the center was lucky in that volunteers cleaned up the taggings on the building.


Jackson credited Lucerne resident Donna Christopher and her husband, John, with cleaning up the center.


No other graffiti has been found since the teenager's arrest, Jackson added. "Since he's been away we haven't had any."


Christopher said she decided "I wasn't going to look at it any more," and walked around town, even before the arrest, removing or painting over the graffiti.


She said she would like to see the teen ordered to do community service.


"It would mean more if he actually came and did something for the community that he harmed," she said.


However, she added that when she called the Probation Department to request community service, a staffer told her the teen suspect was unlikely to be ordered to do cleanup around Lucerne.


"That makes a lot of us very, very angry," Christopher said. "I feel he owes the whole town."


She also found out from Probation that, because the property she helped clean up doesn't belong to her, she can't expect to be repaid for the paint and cleaning supplies. Christopher added, however, that being paid back isn't her chief concern.


Community considers action

The immediate outgrowth from the rash of graffiti is an effort to reorganize the community's Neighborhood Watch and Community Patrol groups.


Christopher hosted a meeting Nov. 18 at the senior center, where about 30 community members came to discuss getting the groups active once more.


She is working with members of the Neighborhood Watch group, which already has a charter, to update the membership and its activities.


In the meantime, Christopher is telling community members who approach her about neighborhood safety that "you don't have to be a member of an organization to keep your eyes open and call the police," she said. "You just have to be willing to be interested."


She added, "Everybody's a part of the neighborhood watch if they're part of the neighborhood."


So far she's noted a positive response among those she's talked to, who are interested in protecting their community.


"I'm telling people, 'This is your town, take care of it,'" she said.


Anyone interested in becoming involved in the Neighborhood Watch or a new community patrol is invited to call Christopher at 274-8482.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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