City, Community React to Spike in Gang Graffiti

A spike in gang griffiti on Madison's east side has nearby residents up in arms.

It's a problem that's existed before, but now those residents are again looking to the city for help.

Letters, stars, signs, they're all symbols many people living and working on Madison's east side don't want to see.

"I think it's terrible," says Maria Coy, who gets her hair done at a salon on Milwaukee Street, "It makes the neighborhood look rundown, it makes it look like a rougher neighborhood and I think Madison's better than that."

Owner of Rebecca Lynn Studio, Sarah Cress, says, "I think we have to address it and move on. I don't think we can sweep it under the carpet. We have to look at it and form a plan."

Gang graffiti is a problem not only in the community, but also in the schools. It flared up this year.

Madison Metropolitan School District Security Director Ted Balistreri says, "We've had more fights, kids arguing, kids showing their colors and that stuff. We really need to get on top of it quickly."

"I just think they're trying to get their names out so people know they're around," says Georgia O'Keefe Middle School student, Lawrence Montgomery.

The same symbols on the abandoned Kohl's grocery store on Milwaukee Street and East Washington Avenue are popping up at different locations around Madison's east side. Local residents and city officials agree this vandalism has to stop.

"There does seem to be an up tick of activity," says Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, "In fact, we will be reconvening a policy team on graffiti that's been mothballed for a couple years as the problem had waned."

Cieslewicz also says the current graffiti removal team is hard at work.

But those like Coy say until they see results, they're not satisfied.

"It's a lack or respect, self respect and respect for the building and that's the part that bothers me," she says, "It isn't the message. GD, I don't know what that means. It's ugly and it doesn't belong there."

Balistreri says the violent gang activity that happened in the neighborhoods last summer could be a factor in the recent problems.

But he assures kids are safe in Madison schools.

Dane County Human Services is holding a youth gang violence discussion Friday to continue to address current problems.

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