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City attorney wants to prevent taggers from gathering together

August 24, 2009 |  8:12 am

Graffiti at a South L.A. corner. "If you want to tag, be prepared to go to jail," said City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. "And I don't have to catch you tagging. I can just catch you ... with your homeboys."

Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich wants to give police the ability to arrest "taggers" simply for hanging out together, without having to catch them in the act -- raising thorny constitutional issues as he lays the groundwork for a campaign to tackle the city's vexing graffiti problem.

In an interview, Trutanich said his staff has begun amassing street-level intelligence and reviewing legal strategies that would pave the way for a series of injunctions targeting graffiti and "tagging" crews. The measures would be lawsuits of sorts, brought on behalf of the public, treating much of the graffiti that mars buildings and overpasses as a criminal enterprise and arguing that it has become such a nuisance that it requires an extraordinary police response.

Los Angeles is the national leader in the use of civil injunctions to combat criminal gang behavior -- the model for Trutanich's proposal. The city has 43 injunctions targeting 71 gangs, including one rolled out earlier this year over a 13.7-square-mile area of South L.A., the largest in California. The tagging injunctions would focus on neighborhoods where graffiti is a particularly acute problem, such as the Harbor Gateway area, the San Fernando Valley and, especially, South L.A.

Read the full story on tagging here.

--Scott Gold in, South Los Angeles

Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times