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L.A. city attorney seeks injunction against 'MTA' tagging crew

June 23, 2010 | 11:26 am


City prosecutors filed for a civil court injunction Wednesday to stop the activities of the Metro Transit Assassins tagging crew known for a massive, quarter-mile-long graffiti "bomb" of its acronym along the Los Angeles River.

The injunction, which names 10 members of the crew, would be the first of its kind in that it specifically targets a group of graffiti vandals, according to the Los Angeles city attorney's office.

Unlike many "turf-based" anti-gang injunctions that create "safety zones" by limiting the activities of street gangs from operating in a particular area or associating with one another, the injunction against the Metro Transit Assassins, or MTA, would impose a broad list of prohibitions against the crew.

The court order being sought by city prosecutors would bar members from associating with each other, institute a mandatory 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew and prevent members from possessing "graffiti tools or weapons."

The civil suit is scheduled to be heard Aug. 31. It seeks $250,000 in civil penalties and $3.7 million in damages for what the city attorney's office described as 500 documented incidents of graffiti vandalism associated with MTA.

Part of the damage was the massive MTA moniker that stretched the equivalent of several city blocks on the west bank of the Los Angeles River. At one point, the river was one of the largest open-air tagging canvases in the region, with thousands of graffiti tags covering its concrete banks.

The MTA "bomb" was removed last October as part of a $1.3 million graffiti abatement program by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As one of the largest tags in the United States, its three block letters covered a three-story-high wall and ran between the 4th Street and 1st Street bridges. It could be seen from the air.

In seeking the injunction, city prosecutors filed a criminal complaint that includes 52 witnesses and 101 photographs and documents damage to highway signs, highway sound walls, billboards, bridges, buses, passenger trains, freight train cars, trucks, homes and numerous commercial buildings.

The city attorney's office cited figures from the office of community beautification estimating that the city spends more than $7 million a year on graffiti abatement and other cleanup costs related to graffiti vandalism.  

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Removal of the "MTA" tag last October from along the L.A. River. Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times