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'Gang' graffiti likely copycat kids

We live in what used to be a crime-free neighborhood near Providence hospital, but recently there have been incidents including graffiti on the fence that some claim is related to the M13 gang. Does M13 have a branch in Medford?

— ‘Bald Grandpa,’ Medford

What you saw is indeed a “gang tag,” but it’s more likely to be juvenile copycats than the infamous MS-13 gang based in Los Angeles, according to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau, who heads the multi-agency Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement task force.

The task force, better known as MADGE, has seen “13” taggings for years in Medford, but Budreau said in an email that the gangs in Southern Oregon are “very loose and disorganized, often isolated to juveniles.”

“There are no gang infested or “claimed” areas in Medford, or surrounding areas,” Budreau wrote. “We also see the juveniles who engage in that type of activity sometimes jump around from gang to gang, and the gang they claim affiliation with have little or no connection to the larger, more violent gangs from other areas.”

That doesn’t mean the graffiti is totally harmless. Citing the well known “broken windows” criminology theory, Budreau said the taggings can invite other crime or rival gangs.

The city removes graffiti from public property right away, but tags on private property are up to the owner to remove. Owners even face fines if they don’t take it down quickly enough.

“We hate to do that, but it’s extremely important that it gets removed for reasons we stated,” Budreau said. “We will work with the homeowner if they are struggling with supplies, or how to do it, before we issue cites.”

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.