Arlington dodges vandalism, surge affecting Marysville
August 27, 2008 · Updated 5:02 PM
ARLINGTON Vandals got a head start here a few years ago but werent able to keep the pace as the city stole a march on them, putting the screws to whoever was painting, tagging and damaging anything they could get their hands on.
And while Arlington has had some recent activity, police say it is just a temporary flare up of a perennial problem and not a symptom of the woes Marysville is facing.
Pete Shove is an Arlington police officer who keeps tabs on the nuisance activity and said while annoying and unsightly, the spray painting and tagging in his jurisdiction is less of a problem than in the rural areas he used to work in.
Weve had some graffiti in the last few weeks, but its not gang related, Shove said, adding that Somebody spent a good, long time to paint a bridge abutment with resist oppression. It seems to be more politically minded.
While unsightly, the artwork that appears around this town is fairly innocent in nature and doesnt bear the stamp of gangs that many police fear. When he worked in eastern Washington he saw more gang-related graffiti there than in Arlington, Shove said, adding that the recent activity looks like it was done by youngsters. Gang-related graffiti is usually done by the 15-year-old and up demographic, while the stuff hes seen on his beat looks like the work of 12-year-olds. These might be wannabees but they arent affiliated with any known gangs, Shove said, but they imagine themselves to be.
Its a very cyclic this type of behavior. They see it, they do it, Shove explained. If we start getting hammered, its usually the 12 and under group. It seems to be a younger crowd that is doing it when it happens.
The last big cycle of vandalism was the late 1990s and early 2000s and the police response was so swift that it went away all over western Washington. Thats the key that cities like Marysville should use.
I think we just hammered on everybody so hard all over the state they just went away, Shove recalled.
Marysville Police Chief John Turner said the problem in his town goes deep; and his department is working with the two school districts in his jurisdiction to bridge some cultural and ethnic chasms that defy an easy solution. He acknowledges the presence of gangs in the area but doesnt know how well entrenched they are; MS-13 and North 14 are two Hispanic gangs but language barriers provide an effective cover for their operations. There are other Russian and Ukrainian groups in the area and Turner has turned to the Marysville School District for help. Ursula Ranke is a multi-lingual administrator who works with students learning English and is on the graffiti task force. She will help the police and businesses identify areas to work on at the task forces next meeting in early January and has written flyers in English and Spanish to help businesses learn how to deal with graffiti and gangs.
Turner notes that many recent immigrants dont speak any English and are at the mercy of their children to know what is going on in the community, and those kids can pull the wool over their elders eyes.
Thats one of the tasks of our graffiti task force, we want to bridge those gaps, Turner said. I dont want to wait until things happen, I want to build bridges before something happens.