Spike in graffiti doesn't mean more gangs

Spike in graffiti doesn't mean more gangs »Play Video
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Graffiti is often a hallmark of gangs. They tag public and private property to mark their territory, and even warn their enemies about what's to come.

A recent outbreak of taggings in Kennewick has neighbors wondering if more gangs are making their way to our area.

Grady Cox has seen the push of gangs making their way closer.

"From Yakima and the Lower Valley up now to Tri-Cities, it's just been heading our way," he said.

A recent spike in taggings in high-profile locations had Grady wondering if more gangs are in town.

He said, "OK, we know you're here. Our local law enforcement people are going to now be your friend."

In just the past few days, the highway overpass has been hit. The library on Dayton Street by Keewaydin Park too. Also, a building at Columbia Park, recently repainted. All cleaning costing taxpayers thousands each year.

Even billboards are fair game. When they're hit, there's no easy fix. The companies will have to spend big money to get the signs replaced.

KEPR pulled the number of graffiti cases for all three cities so far this year. Despite the recent outbreak, Kennewick and Pasco have both seen a drop in graffiti since this time last year. Richland stayed about the same.

Kennewick police tells us that there's a difference between gangs marking their territory and random taggings. They consider the recent incidents nothing more than a cry for attention.

"We, so far, knock on wood, we haven't seen an increase in violence this spring," said Sgt. Ken Lattin.

A telltale sign of a heavy gang presence. Still, police stay vigilant.

"If you don't continue to stay on offense, we're going to be on the defense," said Lattin. "We're going to be overwhelmed."

It's a point Grady hopes we never get to.

"They don't feel that it's free and it's easy and OK, that they can call their friends and say, 'Come on up here,'" he said.

He's hoping the community will stand its ground to keep gangs out.

Every law enforcement agency in the Tri-Cities works together to identify and track gang activity.

Patrols will be increased as we begin the summer season.