Inside a creative culture of crime: TPD's war on graffiti taggers
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Jan. 9, 2013 - UPDATED: Jan. 10, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Those behind it, call it art.
The rest of us, including Tucson police, call it damaging, delapidating and often indicative of more dangerous crimes.
Now TPD is working to wipe the city's graffiti slate clean, and they need your help.
"It's something that has been around, and it's something that is going to continue to grow if we don't stop it."
Few kinds of crime are so in-the-shadows and in-your-face.
"A lot of it is notoriety."
No one knows that better than tag task force officer Richard Silva.
He's spent years navigating Tucson's ego-driven, underground world of graffiti tagging.
"The more places they get it, they higher they get it, the harder places that they can put it, the better off they're going to be," he said.
Silva said that small-minded mentality, marked by a "moniker" or signature design, drives taggers to display their work whenever, whereever.
That includes on abandoned buildings, street signs, sidewalks, and in black books, which are passed around like portfolios.
"They'll be riding on the bus, and see somebody who they know who is a rider, and say 'Hey, you know, let me see some of your stuff,' and so they'll trade black books," Silva said.
These are all tactics TPD is tracking and using to zero in on one of Tucson's most notorious crews: RBRK.
Police said that thanks to that one crew alone, since January 2010 Tucson taxpayers have paid for more than $72,000 worth of graffiti clean-up -- and that's not counting tags on private property.
Factor in all of that damage and they say the total price tag is more than $200,000.
All of this explains why Silva is psyched to have two of RBRK's four most infamous taggers off the streets.
Their monikers are Neon and Isis.
TPD is keeping their real names under wraps for several reasons. One of which: while Isis is 18, Neon is just 13 years old.
"The youth in and of themselves are not the ones that are coming out and starting it," Silva said. "It's the adults that are dragging them in, so they are bringing them on because they want the next generation to continue on."
And it's that generation that faces felony criminal damage charges.
Now TPD is on the hunt for two more, known as Zero and Serk, ages 18 and 15.
That means they need you to take a stand and start seeing what -- for too long -- has blended into Tucson's scenery.
"If we can turn it around, if it becomes a place where they cannot tag or people are watching them, they will stop," Silva said.
There are several ways you can help TPD fight the war on graffiti.
If you see a tag in progress, call 9-1-1 immediately.
If you have a clean-up request concerning your own property or property elsewhere, you can report it through the city's website by clicking here. If you choose to clean it up yourself, police ask you take a picture first and submit it with the report.
You can also download the smart phone application "MyTucson", call 792-CITY or call the Transportation Department In-House number at 791-3154.