A $2,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrests of vandals that badly tagged and damaged several Pueblo city parks.
For the second night in a row, vandals spray painted graffiti on buildings in Bessemer Park in Pueblo Tuesday. The night before nearly 200 tags were applied to tables, buildings, and even the swimming pool wall.
Police are concerned about the situation. According to police, the tags could be from at least two different gangs. One of those gangs has been present in the area for several years. The other is fairly new to the area.
Meanwhile, residents just want something done about the situation. "Just to wake up and see it destroyed like this... it's uncalled for, there's no need for it," says Jordan Rodriguez, a homeowner near the park.
According to police and city park employees, at least four other city parks have been vandalized this week. Bradford, El Centro Del Quinto Sol, St. Anne’s parks and the fishing area off of the Arkansas River south of West 11th Street all sport fresh graffiti, most of which could be gang-related.
Municipal Court Judge William Alexander says that while the vandalism done to Bessemer Park alone is the worst he has seen in years, it's not likely to be the last time the park is tagged. "You hate to see it happen, but I tell people over and over again: when you have graffiti, the best thing you can do is clean it off as best as you can. And I know, someone's going to come back and do it again. And you clean it off again, and if you have to do that five or six times, that's life," says Alexander.
The damage to the Bessemer Park was mostly cleaned up Tuesday, but overnight vandals struck again. In at least one area that had just been painted over, gang tags once more marred the building’s facade.
Residents are upset at the lack of respect the taggers have, and according to police often gang members feel the park is their personal property, not the community’s.
The question remains, how are the authorities going to stop this?
Judge Alexander says the quick removal of graffiti does deter offenders. "If the risk is high, and the payoff is nothing, because we're going to clean it off the next day, people are going to get frustrated and move on, they'll go somewhere else," says Alexander.
But some argue that only moves the problem from place to place, instead of actually solving it. Rodriguez would like to see the city step up its efforts to stop the crimes from happening. "I think maybe some surveillance at night. Maybe more monitoring of the park, more lights in the park definitely would work," says Rodriguez.
As it is now, according to Rodriguez, when he does call the police the offenders are long gone before they arrive.
However, when offenders are caught, Judge Alexander and several District Court judges have handed down stiff penalties. But some residents wonder if those responsible for the vandalism are getting the message, or if the punishments just aren't tough enough to register with them.
Judge Alexander believes the graffiti removal plan is working. He says, last year about 4,000 graffiti sites were cleaned up. This year only about 2,500 have needed cleaning. Still, that's nearly seven sites per day that require cleaning.
The graffiti removal team uses donated recycled paint and offenders sentenced to community service to clean up the messes. But they still need funding for equipment. A portion of that funding comes from city coffers.
Anyone with information about the crime should call Pueblo Crime Stoppers at 542-STOP.