A quiet Lompoc neighborhood is now becoming a canvas for gang graffiti.
Neighbors are fearful that these taggers will keep coming back, and the question remains over whose responsibility it is to cover the graffiti.
Lompoc resident Cody Thomas was taking out the trash last week when he discovered the graffiti in the alleyway off Orchid Avenue.
In the past few days, more graffiti has shown up, with a new tag appearing Tuesday morning.
“This is an older neighborhood with families who have children who come up and down this alley to play football and the fact that people are skulking around in the middle of the night tagging up people’s personal property makes me feel personally unsafe living just a few doors down,” Thomas said.
Now he and his neighbors are looking for answers.
The city’s graffiti ordinance says it will help property owners cover graffiti within 48 hours of it being reported, providing the paint and the crew to paint over it, but Lompoc police say that ordinance is outdated.
“Originally in the 90s, we had a number of volunteers that would go out and would assist with that. We no longer have those volunteers and we don’t have the resources to do it,” said Sgt. Kevin Martin, Lompoc Police Department.
Despite what the ordinance says, it’s now up to the homeowner to cover the graffiti and if publicly visible graffiti is not covered within five days, the property owner can be cited.
“An example I use is, if somebody breaks your window and commits vandalism, which is what graffiti is, it’s not the police department’s job to replace your window at the city’s cost. It’s your private property, paint is vandalism, it’s graffiti, it’s the property owner’s job to cover up or remove that paint,” Sgt. Martin said.
But Thomas sees it differently.
“I love this city, I love living in Lompoc, but stuff like this and the unwillingness of those who work in the city to help out the neighborhood makes me re-think the safety of my neighborhood,” Thomas said.
Lompoc police say the best way to report graffiti is through their app, which allows the pictures you upload to be geotagged, giving officers a better idea about where the graffiti may be. They say they also have an open Community Service Officer position that is supposed to help with graffiti control, but the position is currently frozen due to lack of funding. They hope the city council will address the ordinance issue soon.