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Graffiti mars area neighborhoods

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Sarah Cofer, Respect program coordinator for the Arlington School District, as she soaked her own rag with more paint thinner.  “We’ve worked so hard to educate these kids.” - KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Sarah Cofer, Respect program coordinator for the Arlington School District, as she soaked her own rag with more paint thinner. “We’ve worked so hard to educate these kids.”
— image credit: KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times

ARLINGTON Hateful graffiti has once again made its mark on Arlington.

Residents of the Upland Drive neighborhood called in descriptions of three suspected vandals April 12, just days after the Arlington Police Department responded to 14 separate reports of graffiti that had been spray-painted on houses and vehicles throughout the city on the morning of April 8.

Arlington City Council member and Upland Drive resident Scott Solla reported seeing two boys and a girl, all teens, in the neighborhood at approximately 7 a.m., April 12, defacing neighbors' cars, mailboxes and front-yard decorations.

"They wrecked one person's lighted path, and took the conch shells that another one had and threw them on the street," Solla said. "The girl had long, black hair and was skinny. The one boy had sandy brown hair, while the other had what I call 'painted' hair. When they were confronted, they jumped over a fence and scattered."

According to Solla, the graffiti left in his neighborhood was more easily removed because residents discovered it before the spray-paint had been able to dry fully.

Those whose homes and vehicles were vandalized April 8 were not nearly as lucky. The graffiti in their neighborhoods included swastikas, anti-religious messages and obscene language and illustrations, and while investigators believe that they were spray-painted between the hours of 2-8 a.m. that day, owners of the vandalized homes and vehicles were still working to repair the damage done well into the afternoon hours.

On the 4600 block of 200th Street, the graffiti on the home owned by Sharil Kallstrom was discovered by its residents, the Hardy family, shortly after brothers Nathan, 15, Jacob, 13, and Kaleb, 10, left for school that morning.

"It makes me mad that people would do something like that," said Jacob Hardy, who joined his brothers, Kallstrom and their neighbors that afternoon in scrubbing the garage doors that had been defaced with a swastika and other designs.

"It made me angry, but I knew it could come off, or be replaced," said Nathan Hardy, before he went to work on the garage doors with a rag, a toothbrush and a can of paint thinner. "It irritated me more than it worried me. Still, as soon as I saw the swastika, I knew we had to call the cops, because it was a hate crime."

Sarah Cofer, Respect program coordinator for the Arlington School District, was called by Patty Donaldson, a mutual friend of Cofer and Kallstrom, as well as a neighbor of Kallstrom and a kindergarten teacher at Presidents Elementary.

"I'm extremely disappointed," Cofer said, as she soaked her own rag with more paint thinner. "We've worked so hard to educate these kids. Whatever we can't finish today, we've offered to bring more kids back to work on tomorrow, because there are a lot of kids who want to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem."

Because of the graffiti, Donaldson now feels less safe in her neighborhood.

"It scared me and my 11-year-old daughter both, when we saw it this morning," Donaldson said, as she sought to clean off the stubborn spray-paint. "This isn't Arlington. The attitudes behind this worry me."

As for Kallstrom herself, having her property vandalized was not nearly as upsetting to her as having to give up the hours needed to fix it.

"I work and go to school full-time," Kallstrom said. "I need to be spending this time studying, not scrubbing graffiti off garage doors."

At the same time, on the 20100 block of 46th Avenue NE, Antero Rocha had just finished repainting the side of his house, after trying for more than an hour to remove the graffiti through other means, to no avail.

"I wanted to take it off, but I couldn't scrape it or sand it off, because that would only make it worse," Rocha said. "It's terrible that somebody would do this, and I wasn't expecting it to happen, but what can you say? It was probably done by juveniles or teenagers, who'll get a slap on the wrist."

Just down the street, on the 20300 block, Cheryl Seat couldn't even begin to fix the damage that had been done to her property. She and her husband own an RV that their next-door neighbor, Virginia Lewis, lets them park in her driveway, and both Lewis and Seat were treated to a rude awakening April 8.

"I looked out my window and saw black spray-paint all over their motor-home," said Lewis, a resident of the neighborhood for the past four years. "Nothing like this has ever happened since I've lived here. I'm kind of frightened. If people like this are out in the early morning, who knows if they'll start breaking in our windows next? There used to be cars that drove security patrols on these streets. We need them to do that again."

Even as she examined the corrosion that the spray-paint had caused on the fiberglass sides of her RV, Seat expressed sorrow for the vandals.

"I feel sorry for them, that they have nothing better to do than this," Seat said, as she considered how to cover up the graffiti. "We can fix it. That's not the point. I pray they'll receive help for what they've done."

Arlington police were not available for further comment as of press time. They are still seeking any information that could lead to the person or people responsible for these crimes, and request that citizens with such information contact them at 360-403-3400.

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