Evanston Police report increase in gang-related graffiti

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

Vandals have caused a dramatic increase in Evanston graffiti during the last three weeks, almost all of it gang-related.

Daily crime reports from the Evanston Police Department show 12 incidents of gang-related graffiti since Feb. 18. Police have also arrested one Evanston man in connection with criminal defacement.

EPD found three incidents of graffiti from the night of Feb. 20 and at least seven additional instances since then. Graffiti from the past two weeks marked the first gang graffiti of the year.

Concentrated incidents of graffiti are typical for Evanston, city graffiti technician Karlton Mims said. He estimated that graffiti sprees break out two or three times a year in various areas of the city.

Much of the recent graffiti has stemmed from a conflict between two local Latino gangs, EPD Cmdr. Jay Parrott said.

“Some of the recent graffiti stems from a disagreement they had,” he said. “Other than that, we don’t know what’s directly caused in the increase in gang graffiti.”

Some of the graffiti may simply be “tagging,” where vandals write their name or their gang’s logo on different surfaces. Parrott added that some of the graffiti may not actually be made by individuals in gangs, but rather by people who want to reproduce gang-related images.

“It’s hard to pinpoint who’s actually doing it and what it actually means,” Parrott said.

However, Parrott maintained that a conflict between Latino gangs caused much of the recent graffiti. The disagreement between these gangs might be related to clashes stemming from Latino gangs in Chicago, Parrott said. Some of the graffiti has included symbols of different Latino gangs, including a five-pointed crown, a symbol of the Latin Kings gang, and a pitchfork, a symbol of the Spanish Gangster Disciples.

Mims said he has handled more than 20 incidents this year, using paint or a power wash to cover the graffiti.

Chicagoland Graffiti Removal also works to remove markings in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Mary Kate DeCraene, the company’s office manager, said she had definitely seen an increase in graffiti in the suburbs in the past few years. She estimated that roughly 80 percent of the graffiti they remove is gang-related.

“If we don’t take it down right away, retaliatory graffiti goes up,” she said.

In response to the increase in gang graffiti, Parrott said officers have been made aware of the trend and are checking certain areas more frequently than usual.

“When they put it down, I try to pick it up,” Mims said. “That’s the only way I see a remedy for control.”