County Code Enforcement Deputies Johnathan Williams and Armando Sanchez of the department’s Anti-Graffiti Unit clean up an area recently affected with graffiti.

Since its inception last year, the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Department’s Anti-Graffiti unit has been  working in partnership with the sheriff’s office, removing unwanted tags and graffiti as quickly as they appear.

According to HCSO District II Lieutenant Tripp Selke, graffiti can quickly deteriorate the quality of life in any community.

“It is not always the crime, but the fear of disorder and crime that deprives the quality of life,” Selke said, adding that eliminating that criminal elements such as graffiti quickly by using the department’s intelligence-led policing policy is the first step for law enforcement and it has, so far, led to success.

“Our efforts has led to a significant reduction of crime in recent years,” Selke said.

While the majority of taggings are not gang related, graffiti remains to be a method of communicating for gang members by marking an area, specify gang territory and send clear messages to rival gangs.

A January gang related shooting puts things in perspective, which, according to Selke, led detectives to the discovery of gang related graffiti at Strawberry Crest High School, and the arrest of seven gang members.

“Once the arrests were made, graffiti died off,” Selke said. “The result was the immediate eradication of the problem halting both the crime and its presence.”

Commenting on the effort and in agreement with Selke, Bloomingdale Community Resource Deputy, Curtis Warren, said that the necessity for residents to quickly report any graffiti they see is as important as getting rid of it.

“Tagging and graffiti is just an eye sore and, if not handled quickly, it can lead to a whole lot more trouble within the community it appears,” Warren said. “The diligence of the County’s Anti-Graffiti Unit sends a clear and simple message to the community.”

For more information, call Code Enforcement at 274-6600 or the sheriff’s office at 1-877-GANGOUT or the local substation.

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