An aggressive, mult-agency approach is helping Hesperia tackle a tough graffiti problem.


Hesperia officials saw the writing on the wall. In 2005-06, one graffiti abatement crew handled 3,000 cases. But by December of 2006, the number of cases jumped by 50 percent, so a second crew was added.


The following year the city helped form the multi-agency Graffiti Task Force, which also includes the Hesperia Recreation and Park District and the Hesperia Unified School District. In 2007-08, graffiti abatement crews were sent to 7,248 locations.


Recently officials noticed something encouraging: This year's numbers were down about 10 percent to 6,400 locations.


"While it is not conclusive, it is a gauge that I think is telling us our efforts are working," Scott Priester, Hesperia's director of development services, said via an email.


Although Priester acknowledges that completely wiping out graffiti may not be possible, he believes that the task force can help to "keep it manageable so no additional resources have to be assigned to the problem."


One key to fighting graffiti is tackling it immediately. Averaging more than 530 clean-ups per month, the crews' response time is generally less than 24 hours.


"Graffiti left visible tends to become a magnet for other graffiti," according to Priester. "Generally, taggers' goals are to mark territory which other taggers will respond to by tagging themselves. The faster it is removed the better the chance we have of preventing more of it."


By joining forces, the various city agencies have more eyes on the problem. And that has several benefits.


"Rather than each agency working individually on tagging, and potentially pursuing the same culprits, pooling resources saves time and resources," he said.


Importantly, since the task force was formed almost two years ago, members have discovered that each agency brings pieces of a puzzle that help to identify taggers. That information is shared during bi-weekly meetings.


According to Priester, an expanded Victor Valley-wide task force could lead to even greater success because taggers aren't limited by city boundaries.


"As the number of arrests increases, and we pursue prosecution and restitution, we hope to attribute all of the damage caused by the taggers at one time, which can include tagging from Victorville, Apple Valley and the county area as well. This would benefit everyone."


With or without other cities involved, however, Hesperia's graffiti abatement program is making progress.


"Each agency brings their parts of the puzzle together, and based on the collective information the sheriff has been able to make arrests."


Peter Day can be reached at 956-7453 or by email at peter@hesperiastar.com.