Heightened awareness boosts reports of gang graffiti

Recent media attention about gang graffiti in the area may be the cause of a surge in criminal mischief reports last month, Medford police said.

There were 224 reported cases of vandalism in Medford during January, a 75 percent increase from one year ago, Medford police said.

A recent television special on Medford's KTVL news, "Rogue Gangs," and other press coverage may play a part in the reason police are receiving so many vandalism reports lately, Lt. Tim Doney said.

According to Doney, who supervises the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team, there has been a surge in gang-related activity since last fall, but the number of vandalism reports has gone up recently, he believes, because media attention has encouraged more people to report vandalism when they see it.

"We've been hit a lot since late last year," Doney said.

Gang-related graffiti reported Monday was found on sidewalks at North Medford High School, which police believe was done by members of the Norteño gang.

The area was originally tagged with Norteño graffiti last fall, followed by Sureño graffiti a couple of months later. Norteños and Sureños, which have roots in the California prison system, are the most active Hispanic street gangs in the Rogue Valley, police said.

"It's typical tagging, and a territorial thing they do back and forth," Doney said.

Additional Norteño graffiti was found Tuesday morning on dumpsters on South Riverside and South Central avenues in Medford, police said.

Medford police works with crews from the juvenile detention center to clean some of the graffiti, and sometimes youth in the cleaning crew have been the artists themselves, Doney said.

"Our idea is clean it up or it's going to get worse," Doney said.

A Medford city ordinance requires property owners to clean up graffiti within 10 days after it appears.

— Teresa Ristow

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