Here's a common statement: Graffiti art is merely a harmless, artistic expression of teenagers desperately seeking a special connection with their community.


Bull.


Go tell that bunk to Seutatia Tausili's family. Harmless? Seutatia, a 65-year-old grandmother known affectionately as "Sue," was shot and killed outside her First Avenue apartment complex when she and her family tried to stop a group of graffiti thugs from marking her neighborhood.


And the Hesperia shooting wasn't an aberration. Two weeks ago, Maria Hicks, a 58-year-old Pico Rivera woman, was shot and killed when she tried to stop taggers.


If "Jihad," "Osama" or "Al Qaeda" started appearing on Hesperia walls, signs, doors and trash bins we would be up in arms. Correctly, we would identify such writings as threatening, as terrorism. Why, then, aren't we alarmed when we see "13" (the MS-13 gang), "C" (Crips), "MM" (Mexican Mafia) or "SS" (Nazi Skin Heads) and other tags of power, threat and possible murder?


Graffiti isn't just an eyesore. It's a graphic statement that our town is losing a battle it can't afford to lose.


Mayor Rita Vogler has gone on record against graffiti. She has requested the city allocate more resources to the problem. That's an important first step.


Perhaps we can learn from Gang Watchers, a Christian-based neighborhood watch program in Porterville, which appears to have the right idea. The group is working to toughen anti-gang laws, inform its members of gang graffiti and culture and to do something costs no tax dollars -- pray.


And that is something we, and Seutatia Tausili's family, need more than ever right now.