The Douglas County Sheriff's Office, in partnership with Ahern Rentals, is offering a free graffiti abatement program to provide victims of vandalism a quick cleanup.
"This is designed to be a pro-active approach so we don't see the problems like Las Vegas and Reno," said Undersheriff Paul Howell. "This is not in response to a spike in graffiti, nor has it been found to be a serious problem here."
In addition, Secret Witness will pay $250 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the vandalism.
Deputy Ron Miller, a member of the Tri-County Gang Task Force of Douglas and Lyon counties and Carson City, said it's important for the quick removal of gang signs and other tagging.
"Graffiti breeds graffiti," Miller said. "We try to get it down within 48 hours of reporting."
Miller said Carson City has a similar program.
"They take the graffiti down so fast, it's not of any benefit to the taggers," Miller said.
While the public might not be able to decode the drawings and signs, Miller said the graffiti has a very specific audience among gang members.
He's spent hundreds of hours of training learning to decipher the taunts and threats spelled out on brick walls and in parking garage stairwells.
"It's like reading a newspaper," he said.
Alex Hall, manager of the Gardnerville Ahern Rentals, said the company was happy to donate paint, spray paint, rollers and brushes.
"We just like to be involved in the community and help out where we can," Hall said.
He said the store isn't targeted, but their rental equipment is frequently vandalized.
Ahern's uses a special equipment wax which is somewhat resistant to the paint.
The DCSO program offers a four-pronged approach:
-- DCSO and the Tri-County Gang Unit will document all cases of graffiti within the county;
-- Ahern Rentals will donate paint and supplies, and the Juvenile Probation Office will supervise juvenile probationers for labor to paint over the graffiti;
-- The sheriff's office and the gang unit will use covert surveillance techniques, and increase patrol of graffiti-prone areas for prevention and to catch offenders;
-- Secret Witness will offer rewards of up to $250 for information leading to the successful prosecution of offenders.
The sheriff's office gets multiple calls when residents see graffiti.
Last summer, vandals targeted the Douglas County Library in Minden.
"All the calls we got led to an arrest of a juvenile," Miller said. "People move to Douglas County to get away from that. You look at the freeways in Southern California, other public spaces. It's like they've (officials) given up."
Residents can take steps to prevent graffiti.
"Leaving your porch lights on, or having motion detectors is a big deterrent," Howell said. "Report it as soon as possible, keep shrubs and trees trimmed around your property. Report suspicious activity, especially if you see kids out after curfew."
Curfew is 10 p.m. on school nights and midnight on weekends, holidays and during the summer.
Howell said the sheriff's office relies on community help.
"We've got three gang officers in three counties with a combined population of 150,000 and 1,100 identified gang members. This won't work without community involvement," he said.
Miller's duties include raising community awareness. He addresses neighborhood gatherings and service clubs.
"Our gang unit has taught 200 classes in the last three years," he said. "I get 20 calls a month with information on gangs and taggers."
Howell said it doesn't matter whether the vandalism is on public or private property.
The graffiti abatement program offers two options:
The sheriff's office will supply a generic beige or gray latex paint, tools materials and labor to remove the graffiti; or, if the victim prefers a different color, they supply the paint and DCSO will supply free labor. Other business which would like to help are asked to contact Capt. John Milby at 782-9905.
Any one with information about graffiti, or to participate in the Douglas County Sheriff's Office graffiti abatement program is asked to contact 782-9905. Secret Witness is 782-7463. Anonymity is assured. Payment will be made in any manner the caller prefers.