Sandi Wagner says she can't think of any reason why someone would spray paint graffiti all over the garage door of her home in Ahwatukee Foothills' upscale Mountain Park Ranch neighborhood.
"I'm just kind of a low-profile person," said Wagner, former director of the non-profit Outreach Program for Ahwatukee Seniors. "There's no reason to target me for anything."
Wagner's home was one of eight or nine places in the neighborhood that were tagged with the initials "SBS" or "KJP" overnight on Sunday, according to Charlie Rhineheimer, an independent handyman tasked with removing the graffiti from public areas for the Mountain Park Ranch Homeowners Association. Rhineheimer said several homes were hit, along with a number of community mailbox sites.
He said it may be related to the fact that schools are returning to session this week. That's usually when neighborhood graffiti tends to spike, Rhineheimer said.
Jim Welch, HOA director, said he doesn't think the graffiti is gang related.
"I think it was random. I don't think they were targeting anyone," Welch said. "We're thinking it's because school is starting."
Lt. Mark Tallman, Phoenix Police Department spokesman, said police received four calls from homeowners about the graffiti.
"The graffiti itself doesn't really seem to indicate any kind of gang activity. I would speculate that it's probably just a bunch of kids out there horsing around," he said.
Tallman encouraged people who are hit by vandals or see anything suspicious to call police.
"Let us get some pictures of it before they paint over it," he said.
Generally speaking, Ahwatukee Foothills has gotten off lightly relative to other parts of the Valley when it comes to graffiti, according to Phoenix officials. Tim Boling, deputy director of Phoenix's Neighborhood Services Department, said that out of the 65,000 sites in the city where graffiti was removed in the last fiscal year, Ahwatukee only accounted for 372 of them.
"Graffiti is lighter (in Ahwatukee) because it's a little newer, which makes a difference," Boling said. "It could be more volunteers are active and painting (over graffiti) themselves, so we don't get the complaints."
"Graffiti is not just paint... It's the crime that keeps giving," said Will Gonzalez, a prosecuting attorney. "It's not art because it's not your property. There are very few people I know that wake up in the morning, see (graffiti on their property) and say ‘Oh, thank goodness!'"
Gonzalez said that while most vandals caught painting graffiti are young adults, adults are not exempt from the crime.
In response to the high number of graffiti sites, city and volunteers have come together to form the Graffiti Busters program, according to Phoenix's website. The city trains volunteers and lends the trained "busters" paint sprayers to remove graffiti from their neighborhoods.
Gonzalez said he hopes all taggers, of any age, will realize that the communities are not going to allow this crime to happen, and criminals who partake in graffiti will face serious punishment.
Welch said the Mountain Park Ranch HOA will clean up any graffiti in local community areas, but individual homeowners like Wagner are responsible for their own property.
Wagner said she's considering leaving the outdoor lights on at night for security. She said it's the first time she's had a problem in the 12 years she's lived there.
"Isn't it a pity that we need to go to that resort?" she said. "It saddens me that people don't have enough constructive things to do with their lives that they have to lower themselves to something like this."
To learn more or become an official city of Phoenix Blight Buster volunteer, call (602) 495-0323 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.