Graffiti Crackdown Videos: 'We Had To Get on Top of This'
The lieutenant leading the latest Brandon graffiti crackdown notes where the illegal activity has been the greatest while a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesperson talks about the costs of both "gang" graffiti and "art" graffiti.
The lieutenant heading the graffiti crackdown that led to the arrest of three youths in Brandon on March 20 said the investigation started last year, in May, when "we first started noticing" the extent of the activity.
Since then, "we have been documenting it, cleaning it and pursuing the suspects," said Lt. Frank Losat, of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, who noted the break in the case last week that led to the identification of one of the suspects.
"Ultimately, two more individuals were identified, too," he added, and "we were able to make three arrests in the investigation."
Losat noted that the majority of the graffiti in this case "extends from Parsons Avenue and State Road 60, all the way back down towards Brandon High School."
The graffiti marks were on "several businesses," he said, as well as "many traffic signs that were in public view as well as electrical boxes that are on the side of the roadway."
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Larry McKinnon stressed that "this is not gang activity, this is what we call 'art' graffiti."
"But unfortunately most of the public is not aware of the difference," he added. "When the public sees this type of graffiti on a business or within a neighborhood it brings fear to them, and a lot of times customers won't go into a particular business because they are seeing all this graffiti scattered about all over the walls."
McKinnon said in this case "there's probably literally thousands of tag markers" out there, but that the three teens apprehended have been charged with "only a sampling of them."
Some business have been hit repeatedly, he said.
"Anyone can drive through Brandon and see any of these types of marks on stop signs, on county markers, roadways, telephone poles, TECO boxes," he added. "They're just everywhere."
There's no way to give an exact number of incidents, but "when it was as large-scale as this we knew we had to get on top of it," McKinnon said.
A "good portion" of the graffiti was painted during the daytime hours, Losat said.
"We encourage anybody who sees any type of graffiti that’s in progress to call the sheirff’s office so we can have a deputy dispatched immediately to identify the suspects commiting these crimes," he added.