Police say surge of gang graffiti is unusual


BLOOMINGTON — A crowned figure, the words “B-Town Kings” and anti-Gangster Disciple messages were painted across the walls of a vacant building on McGraw Drive, and “Cop Killa” and Latin Kings gang symbols were painted along the side of a business on Denver Street.

And garages and fences, some of which appear to have been repainted and sprayed again, were covered in gang symbols in the alley between the 700 blocks of West Washington and West Jefferson streets.

“We had never seen so much going up at one time,” said Bloomington Deputy City Manager Barb Adkins.

Much of the new graffiti is unusually large, often crossing entire walls, said Connie Griffin, division manager for code enforcement for Bloomington.

The city received 23 written complaints of graffiti between April 1 and last Wednesday, Griffin said. The markings were spread across Bloomington and into Normal.

Bloomington Police spokesman Duane Moss said the graffiti is largely connected with the Latin Kings.

Jack McQueen, supervisor of Bloomington’s crime and intelligence analysis unit, said there’s no way to use the volume of graffiti to predict future gang activity, but violence or turf issues haven’t accompanied the most recent graffiti, he said.

Fledgling gang members or children emulating gang graffiti will often draw something slightly perverted from actual gang symbols, but it appears some of the larger graffiti was made by people who are involved in gangs, McQueen said.

Normal Assistant Police Chief Rick Bleichner said his department received about eight reports of graffiti in a few days early last week, but most of it was not gang-related. Normal Police Lt. Mark Kotte said some of the markings were on areas such as viaducts, and they may have just been noticed as the weather warmed and people were outside more.

Kotte said the gang-related images in Normal were also connected with the Latin Kings.

Adkins said most graffiti has historically been placed on commercial buildings, but she’s seeing more residential buildings targeted in recent vandalism. Those targets include private fences, garages and a house, she said.

Tammy Cook, vice president of corporate services for Kahuna Business Group, said there was some graffiti behind the building on McGraw when her company bought it in January.

The company filed a police report after the recent graffiti, and the markings will be removed while the company remodels the now-vacant building and installs floodlights.

Both Normal and Bloomington want victims of graffiti to remove it quickly as a deterrent. Bloomington asks the work be done within 48 hours, particularly when the signs are along major thoroughfares. The city tries to remove such defacement in a similar time frame, but it can take up to three days if the city has to sandblast a wall, Griffin said.

Owners must remove graffiti

Bloomington City Attorney Todd Greenburg said building owners can face fines between $50 and $500 if they don’t remove graffiti in a timely basis, but he doesn’t remember the city taking anyone to court over allegations of allowing graffiti.

Wayne Karplus, assistant corporate counsel for the town of Normal, said property owners have seven days to remove the blight. They can be fined between $25 and $500 if the markings aren’t cleaned up.

Adkins encourages retailers to check identities to make sure they don’t sell spray paint to anyone younger than 18. Moss said graffiti is typically a product of younger gang members, who progress to more serious offenses — including drug sales — as they get older.