LOS BANOS — Police officials are reporting progress in their effort to curtail vandalism in recent weeks.
On Thursday police released information on two recent vandalism incidents in which suspects were apprehended.
The first took place at 12:06 a.m. Feb. 8, police said, when officers responded to Skylark Park after a witness reported seeing juveniles vandalizing the area. The restrooms and well area at the park were covered in graffiti, police said.
Police said several juveniles ran from officers when they arrived on the scene, but they were able to detain two 16-year-old boys and Nicholas Leon, 18, of Los Banos.
The three teens were arrested on suspicion of vandalism, conspiracy to commit a crime and participation in a criminal street gang. Leon was taken to the Los Banos Police Department Jail. Police said the juvenile suspects were issued citations and released to their parents.
“This is another example of the community working with law enforcement to stop criminal activity. In this case had the citizen not called police, we’d likely be taking yet another vandalism report without being able to hold those responsible accountable for their actions,” Cmdr. Jason Hedden said.
The second incident occurred at 2:07 a.m. Feb. 16. Sgt. Elias Reyes was patrolling the 200 block of Citrus Avenue when he observed two juveniles attempting to hide from him, police said. The juveniles ran but were apprehended by the sergeant, with the help of officer Alfonso Flores.
The juveniles allegedly had spray paint cans in their possession. Police said officers found a large amount of spray paint graffiti on a wall near the intersection of Overland Avenue and North Street.
Police said the juveniles told officers they were responsible for the wall being defaced. Both juveniles, whose ages were not released, were arrested on suspicion of vandalism and later released to parents.
Police said Sgt. Jesse Ceja conducted a follow-up investigation, identifying the juvenile suspects as allegedly being responsible for at least seven other incidents of graffiti around Los Banos.
“Graffiti is not a victimless crime; it is a crime against not only the property owner but the public as a whole. Graffiti causes thousands of dollars in damage annually and destroys the appearance of our community. The Police Department takes a zero tolerance stance towards those who choose to deface our city,” Hedden said.
In addition to criminal charges, police have issued more than $6,500 in administrative fines for violations of the municipal code in the two cases.