“ISBK” and “MLB” were two of the graffiti tags appearing frequently on block walls, trash dumpsters, and road signs in Ahwatukee during 2010, particularly inside the Elliot-Warner Loop.
Shorthand for Illegal Since Birth Krew and Major League Bombers, those symbols and other ones inside the Elliot-Warner Loop have almost completely disappeared.
The city of Phoenix as a whole and District 6, which includes Ahwatukee, also saw reports of graffiti drop; though, not as sharply as it did inside the loop.
A partnership between Phoenix police and the Ahwatukee Board of Management (ABM) that began in 2011 is credited with bringing down graffiti incidents inside the Elliot-Warner Loop.
Their efforts, however, didn’t seem to make a difference during the first year. It was reported that graffiti incidents had actually increased during 2011 from the prior year, see earlier story at http://bit.ly/ABM_sees_graffiti_increase_in_2011.
There were 26 graffiti incidents reported in 2011 and that figure is higher than 2010, said Anne Marie Hancock, administrative assistant at ABM; though, records weren’t kept until 2011.
But by the end of 2012 that figure had been cut in half, down to 13 incidents. And as of March 31, 2013 only one incident of graffiti has been reported inside the loop, Hancock said.
The partnership between the city and ABM has depended heavily on two people: Phoenix Detective Michael Kaddatz and ABM’s Administrative Assistant Anne Marie Hancock.
Kaddatz heavily advertises that he is looking for the people behind the graffiti by posting reward signs and visiting schools and apartment complexes, Hancock said.
Hancock methodically keeps track of every graffiti incident that has occurred inside the loop since 2011, saving photographs and incident reports in a three-ring binder.
“If it’s not written down, it never happened,” Kaddatz said.
Even if the vandal is already gone, the incident still needs to be reported to police and documented, not just covered up, Kaddatz said.
Keeping a log like ABM’s has allowed Kaddatz to tie vandals to all the incidents that match that tagger’s symbol, not just the one that the vandal was caught doing.
And that kind of documentation can also result in an individual or HOA getting repaid for the cost of covering up a number of the tagger’s symbols, Hancock added.
The thrill of tagging
“It’s about the rush of doing it, not the art,” Kaddatz said. “That is why we think it leads to more serious crimes.”
Taggers and tagging crews typically are not gang related, but when the thrill of tagging wears off, some graffiti vandals will commit even bigger crimes, like robbery, to get the same kind of thrill, Kaddatz said.
That is why it’s so important to report graffiti and catch taggers before things go to far, Kaddatz said.
Including a picture of the tagger’s graffiti in the reward poster is something that Kaddatz believes is helping to counteract the thrill of tagging.
When a tagger sees his tag on a $250 reward poster hanging in the public area of his school, apartment complex, and grocery store, it gives the tagger something to think about, Kaddatz said.
Taggers like to brag after they hit an area, but if everyone in the high school knows the tagger’s symbol, and everyone knows that $250 is just a phone call away, most taggers realize that getting caught has become a lot more likely, Kaddatz said.
New technology is also helping Kaddatz catch graffiti vandals. One new device is an audio detector. It’s the size of a pebble, so it can easily be hidden. And it will send a text message to Kaddatz when it detects the sound of a spray can.
Report graffiti suspects anonymously at Graffiti Reward, (602) 262-7327. For help removing graffiti, call your HOA or Graffiti Busters, (602) 495-7014. If there are no suspects, call Crime Stop to report, (602) 262-6151.
• Christopher Leone is a graduate student from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.