The neighborhood around Torrey Pines High School was hit hard by graffiti the night of Tuesday, Sept. 2. On Wednesday morning, residents awoke to spray-painted tags on numerous utility boxes, traffic signs and retaining walls.
Graffiti has been an ongoing problem in Carmel Valley and these particular tags are familiar to the San Diego Police Department according to Officer Phil Franchina of the department's graffiti task force. He said by leaving their name so prominently displayed, it's kind of like leaving a business card at the scene of the crime.
"We know who he is, it's just a matter of time to find him and pick him up," Franchina said.
He stressed the graffiti is not gang-related.
In order for the taggers to be held responsible for their work, Franchina said it's important for residents to report every tag they see to the police.
"If it's documented and we happen to catch them, we can get them for all cases," Franchina said.
While it varies by case, the punishment is usually probation, paying back damages to homeowners or the city and in some cases, jail time.
While the police department knows who most of the taggers who target Carmel Valley are, there is still one outstanding case in the area.
In late June, anti-Semitic images were spray-painted in green all over Torrey Hills Park. Similar markings were found at Westview High School that same month.
Franchina said no arrests were made on the case and they currently have no leads. It is being handled as a hate crime rather than a graffiti issue.
Cleaning it up
The city's graffiti control program takes care of cleaning up most tagged structures that are in the right-of-way, the areas off the street and curbs. The rest of it, including the retaining walls across from the high school's entrance on Del Mar Heights Road, are considered private or homeowner association property and the responsibility falls to the homeowners to clean it up.
As they have in the past, Del Mar Highlands HOA members Amy DeNato and Susie Hadley got right to work on Wednesday morning, scrubbing off as much as they could with Goof Off Graffiti Remover. For the past two years, DeNato has been busy.
"I first noticed this type of vandalism a couple years ago especially along Torrey Ridge Road near Torrey Pines High School," said DeNato. "I would remove the graffiti in the morning and in the afternoon it was back."
When there is graffiti residents cannot remove, such as the paint on the brick retaining wall, the city's graffiti control program will then take steps to remove it.
The city's graffiti control program said that quick clean-ups deter vandals from striking if they see it's an area that their "art" won't stay up long. On private property such walls and fences, they suggest deterrents like using good lighting or planting vines or shrubs that make them harder to get to. The city also finds plants with thorns or foul scents to be excellent graffiti repellants.
While DeNato knows other residents who have worked to remove the vandalism, she would love for even more neighbors to get involved in keeping the community clean.
"It would be great if other people got involved in our community and removed the graffiti themselves or reported it as soon as they noticed it," DeNato said. "Hopefully with a lot of perseverance and community involvement, we can stop this type of vandalism in our neighborhood."
The graffiti program also offers free recycled paint for removal through an exchange bank in Chollas View. For more information on the paint exchange bank or more on graffiti control, go to sandiego.gov/graffiti.
To report a graffiti incident to the police, call (619) 531-2000.
Crime forum on Sept. 18
The Northwestern Division of the San Diego Police Department will host a community forum on Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center. The forums are a great resource for residents to voice their concerns - the department tailors their patrols around what they hear at these meetings. Issues that will be discussed at next Thursday's forum will be school traffic, graffiti, truancy, break-ins, teenage curfews and drug-use in the neighborhood.