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Graffiti binge scars Pacific
Pacific residents awoke to a nasty surprise last Sunday as an overnight graffiti spree left gang-style tags on mailboxes, signs, fences and cars.
“Apparently Saturday night, and we don’t know which direction they went, but somebody went through about 50 locations … and tagged gang-style graffiti,” Pacific Mayor Richard Hildreth said.
Those stricken locations stretched from Skinner Road and Ellingson Road to a block west of Pacific City Hall at Milwaukee Avenue and 3rd Avenue Southeast.
Although most of the graffiti was gone by Monday – much of it courtesy of Hildreth, who often removes the tag himself – the attack raised concerns with the mayor and the Pacific Police Department about possible gang activity.
Hildreth said the graffiti contained references to the Little Valley Locos 13, or possibly the Lokotes, a Latino gang active in Seattle and Yakima.
“This is the first we’ve heard of them,” he said.
Hildreth added that the No. 13 used in the tags often affiliates the gang with Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, an El Salvadorian gang active nationwide, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Hildreth said they are not sure if the graffiti is the product of actual gang members or “wannabes.”
“It took them at least an hour. They’re obviously on foot. But that tells me that they’re wannabes,” Hildreth said. “So they’re probably under 16, so they don’t have a car.
“Personally, I would think if this were a real MS 13, you might have a couple of tags, you wouldn’t have 50 going down a street,” he added. “I personally believe this could be maybe a little brother of one of the members. But the problem with wannabes is that they are more dangerous because they’re unpredictable. Even if it’s not strictly gang affiliated, and they’re just trying to fake it, that’s actually more dangerous because you might have real gang members get upset that someone is mocking them, and they will retaliate.”
Although Hildreth said that the community has had brushes with gang violence in the past, including a drive-by shooting in May. Pacific’s problems pale in comparison to other communities.
“We may have a few gang members who live here, but they’re not being actively open about it,” he said. “We’ve had small instances. But one of the advantages of having a large police force for the size of community we have is it does have the tendency to discourage that type of activity.”
Regardless of whether the attack was done by actual gang members or wannabes, Hildreth said, the City’s main concern is cleaning up the graffiti before it attracts more tagging. He encourages residents to report suspicious behavior.
“Our number one concern is to cover it up or remove it as soon as possible,” he said. “The broken window theory applies where if you don’t clean it up it gets worse.”
“It took them at least an hour to leave those tags and walk that distance,” Hildreth continued. I’m sure somebody had to have driven past and seen them. What I want to see is for someone who sees people out at two or three in the morning that shouldn’t be out there to call 911. We do have a curfew ordinance, and we have other laws that may take effect. If nothing else, we have probable cause to stop them and ask what they’re doing.”