A tiny piece of technology and a cadre of trained volunteers helped police catch 37 alleged taggers during a three-month investigation dubbed Operation T.A.G., Targeting All Graffiti.
Police said Tuesday that the 37 juveniles and adults, ranging in age from 14 to 23, are responsible for more than $50,000 in vandalism. They are being charged with a total of 885 counts. One 17-year-old alone is being charged with 100 counts of vandalism that caused $5,500 in property damage.
District Attorney Bob Lee promised offenders would pay with “jail, lot of jail, community service, lots of community service, cleanup and lots of clean up, and fines, lots of fines.”
The operation, launched in December with the cooperation of the District Attorney’s Office, was “motivated by the anger created by graffiti in the community,” said Police Chief Terry Medina. As much as people worry about gangs and violence “what really bothers them is graffiti,” he said.
Police had help from a new-to-the-market sensor developed by Broadband Discovery Systems Inc. of Scotts Valley. While police were purposely vague about how the devices work and where they have been deployed, Medina said a tagger was caught within an hour of the first deployment.
Just as helpful, Medina said are volunteers, who have been trained to keep an eye on high-risk sites.
The message is “zero tolerance,” said Mayor Antonio Rivas.