CRIME

Gang graffiti on the rise in D.C.

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Graffiti is on the rise in the District, especially gang-related scrawls. D.C. officials said it's due to funding cuts.

Gangs in D.C. are making their presence known on storefronts, alleyways, even houses of worship, marking them with names and symbols to claim their turf. The owner of Sweet Mango restaurant had to repaint his fence after it was vandalized. "I think they want to rule the block," said Bobbi Simms. "This block is for everybody."

D.C. officials report there has been a surge of gang graffiti since January when Ward 1 lost its green team, a 33-member group that cleaned graffiti within 24 hours and helped keep gangs off the streets.

"We were basically like the ambassadors," said a former green team member, who asked ABC7 to protect his identity. Now he worries the graffiti trend will lead to violent retaliation.

Councilmember Jim Graham said more needs to be done. Graham said tagging paves the way for gang recruitment of children in local neighborhoods. "Lets be clear," he said. "This is about fighting gang violence."

Ward 1 resident Emma Smith showed parts of her neighborhood that have been targets of gang graffiti. She hopes the city will put more effort into combating the problem.

"They find enough money they want in the rich neighborhoods," Smith said.
The Department of Public Works is in charge of cleaning graffiti. Graham said he's working on finding funding in 2012 budget for a less expensive graffiti task force.

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