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'Needlegun gang' stickers plaster neighborhood, glitch delays city's response

A teen removed the stickers herself after the city did not receive the graffiti removal request
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jun 28, 2024

A Colorado Springs teen who was concerned at seeing stickers with gang-related language on light poles and signs in her neighborhood reported it to the city with her father and didn't hear back.

News 5 wanted to know what the stickers meant and why the Colorado Springs' employees were not taking action. It turns out, part of the reason is due to a glitch. The other is the sheer amount of graffiti reports filed on a daily basis.

The sticker in question is black with a red border and has a skull and crossbones on it. It's written in multiple languages. In English, it says the word, 'Danger' in all capital letters, as well as "Needlegun gang area, armor required."

"Me, when I see 'gang' on there, I’m looking at a threat, you know? And that’s why we got online and registered it, and we took a picture and sent them the picture," says Michael Vidinha who helped his 14-year-old daughter file the report with the city using the GOCOS community reporting interface.

Vidinha spent a career in military service. He didn't expect to feel protective of his family over a sticker. But, he didn't know whether the sticker was legitimate gang activity or something less nefarious.

Vidinha called the police back the following Wednesday after he said he didn't hear from investigators or the city's Neighborhood Services about his graffiti report and concerns over his family's safety.

Colorado Springs Police tell News 5 detectives think the sticker is related to a Japanese fantasy game. They did not respond to our request asking why they didn't get back to Vidinha. We found references to 'needlegun' online in the American video game, 'Overwatch,' which launched its fourth season in April.

After not hearing back from anyone with the city, Vidinha said his daughter was growing more nervous and told him they would remove the stickers themselves.

"So she decided they were gonna walk around the neighborhood. We're gonna start pulling the stickers off of the lamp poles and stop signs," he said.

They removed 18 stickers in their neighborhood in Briargate's Anderson Estates area south of Academy Boulevard.

Despite filing the request for assistance on GOCOS, the city's Neighborhood Services department did not receive it. Tom Wasinger, who manages the department, says they discovered a glitch last week, preventing reports of graffiti from reaching their office. The city confirmed Vidinha's request was one of those requests lost in the glitch.

"I've never seen these," Wasinger said of the stickers. "I sent a photo of that to our person that takes care of the graffiti most of the time. He has not seen that one either. So it looks to be fairly new."

Beyond the glitch delaying reports, Wasinger says his department is a week or two behind in fulfilling graffiti removal requests due to the sheer number that come into the city on a daily basis.

"We'd love to get them removed, you know, within a day or two, but there's just so many ... there has been about 15,000 this year already. We have two people that are, well, their primary job is to remove graffiti," Wasinger said.

After News 5 talked with Wasinger, crews removed 25 stickers from Vidinha's neighborhood. Wasinger says the system is now relaying community-reported issues correctly and that his department is also willing to help remove graffiti from private property.

Vidinha's neighborhood isn't the only area hit. We found more of the gang-gaming stickers near the Motor City area of Colorado Springs.