Graffiti in Tustin in the last several months dropped about 21 percent compared to the same time period last year, according to recently released statistics from the city's Community Development Department.
June through September averaged 324 graffiti incidents each, compared to 411 during the same months last year. August saw the biggest decrease of 29 percent, with 443 cases in 2012 falling to 313 in 2013.
In this file photo, Police Services Officer Marcella Sambrano takes a photo of graffiti in Tustin. Tustin police use a database called TAGRS to document and track graffiti.
While graffiti activity has a cyclical nature, the reason for the recent decrease is unclear, said Amy Stonich, senior planner for the city and co-chair of the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force.
The task force, which brings together city staff, governmental agencies, police and other groups, has been working on the issue, along with the Tustin Against Graffiti (TAG) Task Force.
TAG, an internal committee formed in 2008, uses a database administered through the Orange County Sheriff's Department to track and find hotspots of graffiti, said Tustin police Lt. Paul Garaven. Tracking and Automated Graffiti Reporting System, or TAGRS, helps track similar graffiti and monikers. The gang unit and special enforcement detail can target areas where there are graffiti problems, if they can identify who is doing it through gang marks or affiliation, Garaven said.
Factors such as warm weather and no school are linked to increases in graffiti, said Elizabeth Binsack, community development director, at a recent Planning Commission meeting. However, this summer showed lower rates than previous years.
"I'm curious why it's lower this month," Stonich said. "For many months it was going up and all of a sudden it dropped off by quite a bit."
Arrests of gang members who are responsible for a lot of graffiti can lead to a reduction as well. But there have been no arrests that would correlate to the low numbers, according to Sgt. Andy Birozy.
Each 10-foot-by-10-foot area of graffiti is considered an "incident," and it costs $40 for cleanup by the city's contractor, Stonich said. If the person is caught and convicted, the city can collect restitution and be paid back for the cost, she added.
Residents are encouraged to call the city's graffiti removal hotline at 714-573-3111 to report incidents of graffiti in their neighborhoods.
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