COLORADO SPRINGS — It's happening in neighborhoods all over the city and has cost tax payers tens of thousands of dollars to clean up during the past couple of years. Now, News 5 Investigates is looking into the fight against illegal graffiti in Colorado Springs. Graffiti on a wall might not seem like much of a crime, but investigators have linked people to dozens and even hundreds of tags across the city and it takes your taxpayer money to clean up the mess. This is why the crews working to remove this vandalism say they need your help in a graffiti crackdown.
Pedro Laumbach is a leader for the Graffiti Unit for the City of Colorado Springs. He works everyday to clean up graffiti. Vandals keep him and his crew busy.
Investigators released surveillance video of one of the people tagging walls and say he's one of the most wanted taggers in the city. He struck just a few weeks ago at 3 in the morning. As investigators try to track him down, the work continues to clean up the mess.
"It's not out of the ordinary to spend a whole day," said Laumbach. "Monday's are very hectic. We spend most of the day catching up from the weekend."
We acquired city data that shows since the start of 2017 more than 11,000 graffiti tags have been covered or removed. To crackdown on the problem Pedro and his staff now keep a catalog of pictures to track similarities in the graffiti and the people behind the vandalism.
"I'm going to take a photo of the graffiti tags that are covered. One of the tags is someone we are tracking and keeping cases on. So we'll get this covered up in 10 minutes. It happens fast," said Laumbach as he addressed an area covered in tags.
City crews estimate each tag location clean up costs about $55 dollars. So factoring in the cost, since the start of 2017 city leaders estimate people tagging in areas across the city have cost taxpayers more than $146,000 dollars. Whether the vandalism is big or small the cost of removal adds up and that's why city crews are serious about holding people behind this vandalism accountable.
"Anybody out there probably thinks oh man it's just one tag, but each one the city charges $55 so you get over 24 tags that's enough for a criminal mischief felony so it becomes a lot more serious," said Laumbach.
Neighborhood Services Director Mitch Hammes says covering up this graffiti isn't just an aesthetic issue for Colorado Springs, hundreds of these tags belong to gangs and can be associated with serious crimes.
"Our crews that are out here doing it identify gang graffiti every day and they forward that to the police department," said Hammes.
In Colorado Springs, as in most major cities, the fight against illegal tagging and graffiti can seem endless.
If you spot graffiti and would like to report it, please do so via the city's graffiti hotline: 719-634-5713