A gang name scrawled on buildings and mailboxes across Medford over the weekend has prompted neighborhood concerns and a police investigation, but officials who track local gang activity suspect these are isolated incidents.
Medford police took seven reports of graffiti featuring "Westside Crips" and "WC" spray-painted in blue, Medford police Sgt. Phil Eastman said. Targets included the Minute Market, Weldon's Cleaners and nearby brick walls on Kings Highway, mailboxes on Summer Glen Drive, as well as at the Evergreen parking structure and several businesses, including the Mail Tribune, downtown.
"We are pretty good at knowing gangs that are active locally and this isn't one we've seen here," said Eastman, who heads the department's Gang and Street Drug Unit.
He suspects that the weekend graffiti, which most likely happened between Friday night and Sunday morning, is the work of either a gang member who is just passing through the area or someone who wants people to think he is affiliated with a gang.
The vandalism concerned Mike and Donna Klosterman, who could see graffiti from their Kings Highway home.
Mike Klosterman spent time in Pacoima, Calif., before moving to the Rogue Valley 35 years ago and remembers the gang-related violence and crime.
"It got real ugly there," he said.
He doesn't want to see that kind of trouble spread here, but simple property damage — even if it's not gang-related — also angers him.
"It's just terrible property destruction," he said of the graffiti tags.
Medford police try to crack down on graffiti to stop property damage and to keep gang activity in check.
Medford is home to a handful of gang members and additional youth who want to be associated with gangs, police Lt. Tim Doney said. Tagging property with gang names is the most common gang activity in the valley, he said.
"When they claim gang affiliation, we take it seriously," Doney said.
Police said Westside Crips tags showed up on Medford streets three or four years ago, but those vandals were caught and use of the mark subsided, only reappearing recently.
"It gets your attention," Eastman said. "People are shocked and concerned about a growing gang problem, but this is not a huge reason to be concerned. It's not a documented gang here."
Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.