For Spanish Springs residents, tagging is not just a blemish — it’s a bane to public facilities and a crime they hope to abate.
The Spanish Springs Citizen Advisory Board pitched in some ideas at its Wednesday meeting as how best to reduce and punish people for vandalism.
“Some kids are doing it on a dare,” said Betsy Mellinger, public information officer for the Department of Water Resources (DWR). “I don’t care what their motivation is — I just want to stop it. It costs everybody money.”
Mellinger gave a presentation at the meeting that said 10 DWR water tanks were tagged between June 13 and 20, just around the time some schools were finishing for the summer. Those tanks included five in Spanish Springs, four in the North Valleys and one in Hidden Valley. The Spanish Springs Flood Detention Project also was vandalized.
The flood project’s 36-inch pipes showed evidence of partying and tagging, although, Mellinger emphasized, the water supply was never at risk.
Other recently discovered damage includes utility boxes, gates, fencing and private property.
“A vehicle knocked down a couple of posts,” Mellinger said. “We put in $150,000 of fencing around the perimeter, so for us to go out there and find it and fix, it’s costing everybody money.”
CAB members were concerned about the report even though county employees do their best to respond to reports of tagging within four hours of the call.
“If this happened between June 13 and 20, why didn’t we do some type of sting operation?” asked Vaughn Hartung, chair of the Spanish Springs CAB. “We know hindsight is 20/20.”
Hartung asked about stepping up watches when the fall semester gets closer to being in session.
But students aren’t the only ones involved with the tagging. Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkin said Wednesday night that certain tagging symbols or patterns are unique signatures particular to gangs.
Kimberly Dawson, the CAB’s co-vice chair, recommend recruiting teens involved in Reno’s Youth Artworks program to help solve the problem in a creative and productive manner.
“Some of those kids are taggers,” Dawson said. “It’s been a successful program. The purpose — putting up the murals around town on the water tanks, the theater in downtown Sparks, the train mural — is to give kids an outlet and it shows them they can do something with their artwork that’s not destructive and the murals are a great deterrent.”
She said the students paint in places that typically receive the most tagging and most of their work is left alone.
Other potential solutions the CAB discussed including fining and requiring parents to do the clean-up if their kids are involved with tagging, installing secure “no shoot” boxes for cameras that cannot be easily tampered with and approaching the Washoe County School District to educate students about the adverse financial impact vandalism has on local government by encouraging political science teachers to assign students to attend CAB meetings.
Joining a Neighborhood Watch program can also be an option, Mellinger said.
“This is costing man hours,” Mellinger said. “We need to improve awareness in the community. I’m urging you to please join your Neighborhood Watch program. You’re the eyes and ears of the community.”