Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lanham residents want graffiti removed

Police say it is the Department of Public Works’ responsibility to get rid of the gang tags

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Neighbors on Dubarry Avenue in Lanham are not happy that MS-13 gang graffiti has appeared on their street.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said the six signs, spray-painted within two blocks, possibly signal that either the gang was demarcating new territory, or that imitators were at work.

One resident, who asked not to be named because of the nature of his job, said that he called the police department emergency line twice over the past month about removing the signs, but they are still there. County police spokesman Pfc. Henry Tippett said the department received only one call.

Tom Johnson, another resident, said several reports were called in.

‘‘Numerous reports have been made and the police do patrol the area on a daily basis [but] neighbors are concerned,” Johnson said.

Tippett said that police procedure is to notify the Department of Public Works and Transportation when graffiti is reported. He said it was the DPW&T’s responsibility to remove the signs.

But Susan Hubbard, a DPW&T public information officer, said graffiti can be removed either by the DPW&T or by the police department.

‘‘We referred it to the police department and until we hear back from the police department we can’t do anything until we receive notification to do so,” Hubbard said. ‘‘They have to investigate it and document it.”

Hubbard said no decision has been made when the graffiti will be removed.

MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, perpetrates violence to intimidate other gangs, law enforcement and the public, among others, according to the FBI Web site.

‘‘We have a lot of MS-13 activity in the area and the region for sure as well as other activity from crews that are starting to call themselves Crips and Bloods,” Ivey said. ‘‘They have a very significant presence in Prince George’s County and the Washington [D.C.] area.”

The county State’s Attorney’s Office and federal prosecutors have pursued several gang-related cases. In June 2007, a Circuit Court jury convicted MS13 gang member Eduardo Escobar Martinez of fatally stabbing a teenager to death. And last month, Walter Izaguirre-Henrique, a suspected MS13 member, was charged with the stabbing death of Parkdale High School student Guillermo Enrique Medina.

MS-13 has grown in the past five years and its numbers have increased in Prince George’s County, Ivey said.

Resident Helen Good said she first noticed the signs on her Lanham street a couple of weeks ago.

‘‘The neighborhood is quiet so I’m surprised it’s here,” she said.

E-mail Liz Skalski at eskalski@gazette.net.