LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Law enforcement agencies in San Bernadino are decoding graffiti in effort to crack down on gang violence.
Central Gang Unit Senior Investigator Kevin Ford is on the front lines of the war on gangs in San Bernadino County, which has the third highest gang population in the nation.
He spoke with CBS2′s Adrianna Weingold about how gangs communicate with one another by tagging territory.
“One gang set crosses out another on the wall – now you know they’re having trouble with each other,” he explained.
“It appears that we have more gangs from outside the area now, but the shootings and stuff in the areas we used to have them in aren’t as many.”
Ford knows how to read between the lines, helping to identify witnesses before they become targets.
He knows multiple graffiti alphabets and reads graffiti patterns to find the taggers behind the spray cans.
“They’re pretty much battling each other on the wall,” Ford said.
San Bernardino resident Aaron Treadway knows it’s a dangerous game that can quickly escalate. He’s noticied the graffiti problem is closely tied with gangs in his neighborhood.
“Somebody can write something and then you cross their name out or their gang and then they want to come back and then before you know it, it turns to violence,” Treadway said. “It goes from these walls to violence.”
San Bernadino County District Attorney Mike Ramos said gang members have also been known to put out hits on so-called snitches.
“These folks are local terrorists, and that’s what they do, they run around in groups, they shoot at each other and innocent victims are being killed,” Ramos said.
According to the San Bernadino County District Attorney’s Office, 1,483 graffiti-related cases were filed in 2012.
Graffiti that is valued under $400 worth of damage is punishable by up to one year in county jail, and/or a $1,000 fine. Graffiti damage over $400 can be punishable as a felony by up to three years in county prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
To report graffiti in San Bernardino County, visit the District Attorney’s website.