Graffiti tidal wave drowns the city of Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

Action News noticed an increase in markings all over town, and graffiti abatement teams confirmed, we're in the middle of a graffiti tidal wave.

The city just paid $750,000 to upgrade McKenzie Trail in southeast Fresno, but the upgrades are marred by graffiti, like on the stop sign here. Vandals have struck all over the 1 1/2 mile trail and all over the city as well.

The archway over Van Ness Ave. announces Fresno as "The Best Little City in the U.S.A.", but passing through the downtown arches, on the right, is a warehouse covered in graffiti. The city also dubbed "Tree City USA" is suffering through a major spike in illegal markings.

"It goes in waves," said Cornell Contreras of the Fresno Graffiti Abatement team. "It goes up and it goes down. You never can tell when it's going to just jump and then just go for a tagging war or whatever you call it."

Vandals left their mark and the tools of the trade at the base of the Van Ness archway, but the graffiti is popping up everywhere it seems.

Northwest Fresno has been hit particularly hard. We found vandals have defaced dozens of businesses, homes and street signs. They even defiled a utility box right in front of the Fresno Police substation.

One block away, Armando Medrano painted his fence this week, like he does every week, to erase the graffiti. He doesn't know what to do about the tree in his front yard. "They write everywhere," he said. "Trees, stop signs, bricks, everything -- even on the floor or sidewalk."

The latest wave is keeping the city's eight-truck graffiti abatement team busy. Each of the trucks makes dozens of stops every day.

"Anywhere from 30 to 60," Contreras said. "It depends on how intense it is."

But just as crews paint over the evidence, the vandals leave new marks. And even if they get caught, the city has eliminated its budget for prosecuting graffiti vandals, so punishments are hard to enforce.

"Right now, if somebody gets arrested for graffiti in a neighborhood, there are no consequences," SAID Fresno City Council member Henry T. Perea.

The district attorney's office says it does prosecute some vandals. This year, they've filed 328 cases, but that's a much slower pace than in past years.

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