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OREM, Utah (AP) -- Four teens with gang affiliations have been arrested following a two-day graffiti spree in which a dozen places were "tagged" -- spray painted with gang symbols.
The juveniles admitted to at least 11 of the 12 incidents, said police, who believe gang-related graffiti is a growing problem in Utah County. "In the last three to four months we've seen a significant increase and made a number of arrests for this," said Lt. Doug Edwards of Orem's Public Safety Department.
The four youths caught Wednesday were 13 to 15 years old. They were booked into the Slate Canyon Detention Facility for investigation of criminal mischief.
Schools where there were spray paintings were Windsor Elementary, Sharon Elementary, Orem High School and Canyonview Junior High.
Other targets were the Timpanogos Regional Medical Center, Bonneville Park, a doctor's office and an auto parts store. Targets at the sites included the sides of buildings, trash bins, restroom interiors and cars.
Orem Detective Greg Olney, resource officer at Timpanogos High School and a gang crime specialist, estimates the damages associated with this week's taggings run into the thousands of dollars. In the last year, gang-related graffiti in Orem has cost "tens of thousands of dollars," he said.
"This thing kind of hit us. We always had graffiti, but it was never like this," Olney said. "It has been constant this year and that's bothersome."
Though tagging is more of a nuisance-type crime, it tends to be a stepping stone to more serious and violent criminal activity as the gang members reach high school age, Olney said.
In November, two rival gangs from Orem and Provo armed with bats and knives assaulted each other in the parking lot of a restaurant in Orem. Several individuals were injured and police later arrested several suspects.
More recently, several gang members between the ages of 13 and 14 stole a car in Orem and played out a drive-by shooting, using pellet pistols, Olney said.
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)