Centralia Police seek help — and offer cash — in graffiti crackdown

Centralia police are offering a cash reward to people who provide information about suspects responsible for graffiti throughout the city in their latest attempt to crack down on this visible gang-related activity that has been increasing throughout the city.

The reward can be up to $250 for information leading to the arrest of any individual for posting graffiti.

Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg said graffiti is often the first step in a series of events that can lead to gang violence.

“The ongoing problem is that there is a gang trying to assert itself and become known in the community,” he said.

The police have identified the gang, as well as some of its members; however, they are requesting the public’s assistance in trying to stop the graffiti.

The increase in gang-related graffiti started about three or four weeks ago, he said. Prior to that, the graffiti problem in the city had been “low grade.” The amount of gang-related graffiti dropped off after police cracked down on local gang violence following multiple 2007 gang-related shootings.

Unless a police officer happens to drive by as the individual is vandalizing something, in all likelihood the police will not be able to catch the suspects in the act, he said.

Berg said gang members use graffiti for numerous reasons: claiming and marking territory, making challenges or warnings to other gangs, as well as a way to gain notoriety.

If one gang crosses out another gang’s graffiti, it is interpreted as a sign of disrespect, which often leads to retaliation, he said. Retaliation could mean anything from fights, additional graffiti to drive-by shootings, like the ones in the summer of 2007.

Police are requesting that people immediately report any graffiti or suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.

“We will make it financially worth their time,” he said.