Hesperia Unified School District police have arrested two taggers who allegedly defaced signs, cars and houses each day as they walked to school.


Corporal Brian Owen, who is based at Sultana High School, made the arrests on January 5.


"I got a report from a student," Owen said. There was some tagging on Timberlane [Avenue]."


The report said a sophomore was responsible for the vandalism, and Owen pulled the student out of class to question him, and he found himself looking at evidence immediately.


"I saw the tag on his notebook and backpack," Owen said. Inside the backpack were notebooks filled with practice tags. "He finally admitted that he did it, along with his friend."


Owen confronted the other boy and both sophomores -- ages 15 and 16 -- filled out written confessions. Practice tags, spray paint cans and Sharpie magic markers -- which are prohibited on HUSD campuses as graffiti tools -- were found in their possession.


Each morning, the pair would walk to Sultana High School, with Sharpies and spray paint in their bags, one of them tagging while the other stood by as a lookout.


The first boy told Owen he first joined the 10-person group of taggers at Sultana High School to protect him from other students who were bullying him.


"It's not a party crew or a tagging crew," Owen said. "It's a gang."


The pair have been charged with felony vandalism and are no longer attending Sultana High School. They are suspended pending an expulsion hearing.


City officials estimate the two have done $10,000 or more in damage, and possibly more than $20,000. If the damage does turn out to be more than $10,000 in damage, the potential fines the teens will be forced to pay if they are convicted will skyrocket, from a maximum of $10,000 to a maximum of $50,000. The teenagers face a maximum sentence of a year in jail either way.


The HUSD school police take a pro-active approach to law enforcement, with a full-time presence on high school campuses and regular visits to other school sites.


"By being able to work in the schools all day, the kids see us and know us," Owen said. "This is one of the benefits of the district having its own department."


The HUSD school police have reported 23 vandalism cases during the 2008-2009 school year.


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