East L.A. no longer takes tagging for granted

By C.J. Salgado

It used to be that to see graffiti in East L.A. would be a “ho-hum” moment for residents and visitors alike. I mean, it was just part of the territory, right? Whether on residential fences, business facades or public sidewalks, it seemed to be everywhere. Not so these days. In fact, graffiti has been in a steady decline for the last four years, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. Because, when it comes to battling graffiti, it really takes a dedicated alliance of proactive residents and aggressive government abatement programs to win the war.

In unincorporated East Los Angeles, residents are doing their part more to report graffiti to the county Public Works department by calling the toll-free Graffiti Hotline at  (800) 675-4357 (City of Los Angeles residents need to call 311 to request  graffiti clean up). Taking calls 24/7, this county program means business and aims for “a 48-hour response” to reports.  Does the Graffiti Hotline program really deserve this distinction? Well, they were put to the test earlier this week in East L.A. when, overnight, an unscrupulous tagger marked up the Bienvenidos-East Los Angeles sign in the median of Beverly Boulevard by Gerhart Avenue.  How long did it take to get cleaned up?

Within, mind you, 24 hours, not 48 hours, Public Works had done quick work of the tagger’s deed, removing the offensive tag and leaving the sign shinning anew. Question answered.

However, don’t think graffiti removal is an easy job. Consider that in East L.A. alone , this program removed some 28,000 tags, equating to about 1.8 million square feet of graffiti, during the most recent fiscal year. Geez, those taggers must have a lot of free time on their hands because they keep busy. Luckily, we’ve got these Public Works folks on our side. In fact, the county spent about $300,000 on just graffiti removal in East L.A. in 2012.

Countywide, figures on the incidents of graffiti are even more alarming. Between 2002 and 2006, the county Sheriff’s Department saw more than a 100% increase in reported graffiti incidents, with the county spending up to $30 million on cleaning and preventing graffiti and tagging . Thanks to caring residents  who report tagging and strong graffiti abatement measures, it has made a noticeable difference in East L.A. as in other communities.

Sure, graffiti looks plain bad, and damages property, but there are other effects that are more sinister. Graffiti is considered to be an “entry-level” crime of vandalism that can put youth on the road to more serious crimes. It can be a gateway to gangs, for example. So, combating it means a lot more than just removing the graffiti.

Up front, it takes education on the dangers of graffiti to keep youth away from this activity. For example, the county Public Works department has a “Consequences of Graffiti” program, a newer prevention effort that goes out to local schools to teach the students about this issue. There are also enforcement, prosecution, and probation costs (minors can get 3 years of probation) on the back end.

With all that in mind, if a picture can be worth a thousand words, then graffiti deserves only one word-STOP!  The clear message to youths is just don’t get started. But if you do, somebody’s watching you …

C.J. Salgado is an East Los Angeles resident


  1. The city’s website for graffiti removal also works well. I use it all the time and the city does a pretty good job of acting on these reports – usually has it gone in a day or two.


  2. If tagging slows down the cancer of “urban development” then I don’t mind so much. If not, it’s a symbolic middle finger to the same.

    • i get this, but also feel the sting of, this is my neighborhood, ALL of my money goes into it, and i hate that certain people in this neighborhood care so little about all the hard work we have to do just to live here. I feel like the people who tagg, are kids who dont understand what paying bills and making sacrifices to do it, is like. From a financial stand point it sucks too, property taxes are going up because of the props were signing, and our home value decreases.

  3. Open season on taggers! If taggers knew they could be shot if caught in the act, would tagging still be as prevalent as it is?

    So much wasted money. Some douche comes by with a spray can and makes a mark. Then we pay someone else to come and (poorly) cover it up. What a waste of time and money!

    Raise the penalties, ban spray paint in the city!

    • Well, I’d be careful about declaring open season. Most tagging is done by gangs these days, and they’re armed. I came across a tagging gang spray painting a wall at Benton and Sunset, and they had a luxury SUV and four guys watching out. Each one apparently packing (I clearly saw a handgun toted by one of these guys). Was this the middle of the night? No, it was 1 pm – bright daylight. I tried to take a photo of the whole thing, but the guy with the gun saw me and came towards my car. I drove on and notified the cops.

  4. I don’t understand why cities don’t use anti graffiti coating on walls/buildings/signs that get tagged frequently. For example that welcome to east LA sign, coat it once and your done. It makes no sense to have anti-graffiti crews re-buff the same area over and over. People will say the coating is too expensive but is it really more expensive than paying a person to buff the same surface every week. Didn’t Shepard do that to his building in EP? I haven’t seen 1 tag on it since he moved there.

    • Sadly EL batmanuel, it is the same reason the sprinklers on the side of the freeway and throughout this city come on WHILE IT”S RAINING despite the rain sensor technology being available for at least 20 years now. Apathetic leaders who care about slogans and getting re-elected, not doing the job smartly and efficiently…

  5. well if east la is anywhere near rosecrans street and 710 freeway, I call B/S that area is ripped up, and its a non – inc area – as of 4-2013 it looks like south central LA

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