An increasing number of High Desert residents are making their mark on Hesperia with a marker or a can of spray paint.


According to statistics released Tuesday at a city budget workshop, Hesperia's graffiti abatement crew responded to 2,647 service requests (including cleaning up buildings, walls, fences, utility boxes and anything other than signs) and 3,526 work orders (cleaning up signage) between February 2006 and February 2007.


Those numbers jumped to 2,828 service requests and 4,168 work orders between February 2007 and February 2008, or jumps of 33 and 47 percent. That's an overall jump of 40 percent in total calls, up from 5,475 to 7,694.


Official estimates are that the city grew from 80,268 to 85,500 during roughly the same period, or 6.5 percent.


Part of the jump in graffiti clean-ups is due to the city's increased capacity to do so, according to city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy. A second graffiti abatement crew was added in May 2007, following a mid-year budget review of the 2007-2008 Fiscal Year budget.


"Now with two crews, we're better able to respond to calls, so that makes the figures look higher," Malloy said. "Within 24 hours of receiving a complaint, we'll respond and remove the graffiti."


City officials are planning additional measures to fight the spread of graffiti, including surveillance cameras in problem areas and a new municipal ordinance that would allow the city to cite parents for graffiti created by their children.


"There are some limitations, of course, to adding it to the municipal code," Malloy said, "But [the city council wants] to use every available tool that we have to combat this problem."


In the meantime, the Hesperia station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department is working with the Hesperia Unified School Police Department.


"We find our aspiring artists, I'll call them," said interim school police chief Mike Graham, "We'll interview them, take a picture of them, take a picture of their artwork."


District employees then create a book of these photos and when the sheriff's department is attempting to find a serial tagger, they look through the book and find the tagger or a member of the same tagging crew.


The interdepartmental cooperation has paid off, officials say, with the recent busts of the ACER and ROK tagging crews.


Taggers do more than property damage: A 65-year-old woman, Seutatia Tausili, and her 25-year-old grandson, Vaovasa Penu, were shot and killed in August 2007 when they reportedly attempted to stop a group of taggers from marking up a garbage can on the woman's property.


The Graffiti Abatement crew can be reached at 947-1417.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.