By A.J. Llewellyn
I spend half my life in Los Angeles, which has the dubious distinction of being the tagging capital of the universe. The other half I spend in Hawaii, where tagging - or graffiti vandalism - has actually become a problem to some sacred sites, causing them to be removed from tour guides.
Whether it is locals or tourists causing this damage is a whole 'nother topic...
However, the problem in California is rampant. The constant, incessant damage cause by tagging is so severe that the city's attorney Carmen Trutanich is seeking to have new laws passed that will make it illegal for taggers to simply hang out together. They don't even have to be caught in the act. Known taggers simply need to be caught hanging out having a Slurpee outside 7/11 and they will wind up in the pokey.
Make no mistake. I loathe and detest tagging. The problem in my city is very bad and Trutanich is right when he says the damage, especially to freeway signs and overpasses is so extensive, it 'requires an extraordinary police presence.'
I applaud the idea of limiting the sales of spray paint to anyone under 21.
Taggers moved into my neighborhood, Studio City and started spray painting their crap on our walls and even the building's awning.
The little bastards didn't stop there. As punishment I guess, when we all pitched in replaced the awnings, they came in the middle of the night and ETCHED their work into our glass front doors. These cannot be removed and it burns me up to see the graffiti each and every day. The awnings were replaced yet again after another attack, the stonework out front had to be sandblasted several times, but these taggers continue to wreck the neighborhood.
And we, the homeowners pay for it.
We're not talking art. We're talking unintelligible gibberish, which, I am told marks gang turf in some neighborhoods and signals the 'ownership' of them to other tagging crews.
I believe taggers should be fully prosecuted as the criminals they are and I applaud Trutanich's moves to make their parents financially responsible for the damage they cause.
But making it illegal for them to hang out together? That's taking things too far and certainly seems unconstitutional.
Taggers are not nice people. They're young and stupid and feel entitled to destroy other people's property. They don't tag their own buildings. I know this, because I happen to know a tagger and he was shocked at the suggestion.
"My mom would kill me," he told me.
In separate incidents last year in California, taggers shot and killed two women who came out of their homes and begged them to stop.
I applaud any and all creative measures to prevent graffiti crimes. My friend, boxing trainer Joe Goossen had a particularly novel idea when a tagger who went by the name L'il Daffy spray painted his nice, newly painted gym.
Joe put the word out on the streets of Van Nuys that he wanted L'il Daffy brought to him. He was dragged in a few hours later by a local guy who knew L'il Daffy.
Joe made him scrub his walls out front, then he said, "You think you're tough? Put these gloves on and get into the ring."
Well, I met L'il Daffy and I watched him spar, I even watched him fight. I think he's a better tagger than a fighter, but you can bet it was a lesson HE will never forget.
I thought it ironic that he posted the Ten Commandments to the wall inside the Ten Goose gym but still went about under the cover of darkness at night, leaving his wife and kid at home to tag buildings across the valley.
He's older now and his wife is a little bossier, but L'il Daffy likes to talk about how he felt he owned the city when he prowled the streets late at night with his spray cans and a screwdriver for protection.
Trutanich's injunctions seek to include the San Fernando Valley - where I live, South Los Angeles and the Harbor Gateway areas.
I frankly like the fact Trutanich is actually doing something about it, as opposed to his predecessor Rocky Delgadillo. I am just not sure being arrested for friendship is the way we should go.
At a news conference yesterday, Trutanich said, “I’m going to put together an end-of-days scenario for these guys. If you want to tag, be prepared to go to jail. And I don’t have to catch you tagging. I can just catch you . . . with your homeboys.”
It's been pointed out by some pundits in California that tagging and hard-core gang life are not far removed and the idea of limiting public association is signing kids' death warrants in some neighborhoods.
Not associating with a gang gives you no protection in some places...and I wonder, is this a good or bad move?
How about you? What is your opinion? Or do you think Tagging is...art?