Parts of downtown LA seeing 300% increase in graffiti in recent weeks, officials say

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Nearly 30 floors of three towers are covered with graffiti at the Oceanwide Plaza development, and their appeal to taggers may be increasing vandalism throughout downtown Los Angeles.

All week, Los Angeles Police have surrounded the site 24 hours a day. LAPD Chief Michel Moore reported Tuesday that they’ve spent more than 3,000 hours at the site in recent weeks, which adds up to at least $150,000.

Despite the added security, taggers have not been deterred.

“I’m going to get my art up no matter what it is,” one tagger said. “The cops, even as much as they want to try and stop us, they’re not.”

NBCLA cameras were rolling Wednesday and caught a tagger in the act. Afterward, he said he wasn’t able to get into the Oceanwide development so he decided to spray paint a different building.

“We’re just moving spots, hitting different walls,” he said.

Downtown business leaders have noticed the graffiti doesn’t stop with Oceanwide, and it’s picked up all over.

Blair Besten, the Executive Director for the Historic Core Business Improvement District, which covers 65 blocks downtown, says he’s noticed an increase in vandalism.

“Significantly so,” Besten said. “In some districts, triple the amount of graffiti calls for service. Our graffiti has probably gone up about 200% since this hit the news.”

Nick Griffin, the Executive Vice President for the DTLA Alliance, a coalition of more than 2,000 property owners downtown has also received multiple reports.

“We’ve had incidents of vandalism up over 500% over this past week with folks being attracted to that project and then being stopped from getting there and they just spread out across the district and hit everything that they can,” said Griffin.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson the President of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, which works on public policy issues, said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass needs to issue a disaster declaration so the city can get more state and federal dollars to help with this problem.

“It’s not only an eyesore. It’s an embarrassment in the city of LA,” said Hutchinson. “The longer this thing stays here and the more embarrassing it is. People are going to start wondering ‘Is this the LA that we hear about?’”

For now, taggers have continued to run rampant in the downtown area, unconscious of the consequences of getting caught or arrested.

“Like I don’t really care. Because when it comes to that, it’s a little destruction of property, and if you really know your laws they can’t, if it’s not over a certain limit, they can’t really even charge you with anything,” said the tagger.

LAPD disputes that claim, saying people can be arrested and face charges for things like vandalism and trespassing, and depending on the damage and the record of the person arrested, you may face a fine or jail time.

In 2019 work stalled on the project after the Chinese developer ran out of money. What was supposed to be condos, a hotel, and a mall has now become a haven for graffiti artists.

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