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Jun 26, 2013 3:52 PM by Rebecca Taylor

Graffiti taggers target Tucson strip mall

TUCSON - A large strip mall that houses at least a dozen businesses has become the target of taggers.

Not only is graffiti expensive to remove, shop owners say it's driving business away.

What's more, they are concerned the graffiti isn't the work of taggers, but a new gang marking its territory.

Bus stops, fences, businesses, utility poles, street signs, even a city water station have been vandalized.

Those who live near 29th Street and Alvernon Way say the problem is getting worse. The initials "TSK" are popping up everywhere.

"That's either a gang name, or it may be the name of one single person, just trying to make themselves famous," said a Tucson man who asked not to be identified.

He snapped photos of the graffiti over the weekend. Since then, mall management has removed it, in an effort to send a message to taggers that it won't be allowed.

"Oh it's terrible, it's shameful, it's very unfortunate that businesses owners have to deal with this kind of stuff," said Jim Mance, an employee at Chariot Italian Bistro.

"It's very very bad," said Victoria Soremekun, owner of Eko Market Place. "And it's costing management a lot of money to clean these things up."

These are just two shops located along the strip mall which had their store fronts vandalized. They say it's scaring customers away.

"Yes it does, it was so nasty, " said Soremekun, "It was really bad. And people coming into the business, they don't like it."

"It's harmful to businesses, to the community, it hurts property values," said Mance.

Under Arizona law, anyone caught tagging faces charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony, punishable by fines and up to three years in prison.

Some might argue that graffiti is an underappreciated art form, but residents in the area say it's a crime with victims, and a crime that costs a lot of money.

They want taggers to use their talent elsewhere.

"Guys use your talents for good, become artists, use it for that kind of thing, better yourselves," said the man who asked us not to use his name. "Don't be messing up the city, this stuff doesn't belong to you."

The city has set up a hotline to report graffiti, it's 792-CITY.

Experts say the sooner graffiti is removed, the less likely it's to return.

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