With more than four incidents reported in the past few weeks, Isla Vista Elementary School has become one of many victims of an increase in gang-related tagging in the local community.
Isla Vista Foot Patrol Deputy Brian Munana said he believes a Goleta gang is responsible for the string of vandalisms at the school, which he said have been as frequent as once a week since school began its fall semester. Principal Lisa Maglione said the most recent tagging was the first time vandals have written on the white stucco walls of the buildings themselves – making the graffiti very visible.
“I think the hard thing about it is that it’s really disconcerting to the students,” Maglione said. “It makes them uncomfortable.”
Maglione said last weekend’s vandalism was the most graffiti she had seen on the elementary school in her six years as principal. In addition, she said she had never seen the particular monikers sprayed onto the walls.
Munana said the tagging was from a Goleta-area gang, but he would not name the gang. He said the particular gang often tags the elementary school and buildings in the I.V. area.
“There is one particular gang that likes to call I.V. its territory,” Munana said.
While there was a sharp increase in gang activity in I.V. over the summer, Munana said, it has leveled off. Tagging, however, is still a weekly occurrence in I.V., he said.
“Every week there’s something new, and a lot of it’s from the same people or groups,” Munana said.
In an unrelated but coincidental case of vandalism, Adams Elementary School in Santa Barbara was also heavily tagged sometime last weekend, said Matt Zuchowicz, the school’s principal. School officials found graffiti covering almost half of the campus, and Zuchowicz said it was one of the worst instances of tagging he has seen.
“We’ve never been tagged this bad, we’ve never had so much vandalism at our site that I’m aware of,” Zuchowicz said.
Zuchowicz said only one piece of graffiti was vulgar, which the faculty quickly painted over on Sunday.
Santa Barbara Police Dept. spokesman Lt. Paul McCaffrey said the SBPD does not believe the tagging was gang related. The school is not located in an area that a particular gang claims, he said.
McCaffrey said the graffiti was probably done by what he called “tagging crews,” a group of individuals that work together closely, tagging their call signs in a general area. Membership in a crew can be prestigious, McCaffrey said, and there is often an initiation ceremony for new members.
McCaffrey said tagging crews have a lot in common with gangs, citing their tight-knit social structure, destruction of property and loyalty.
“Its amazing… it’s definitely a sub-culture,” McCaffrey said.