Several Grand Rapids homes defaced with gang graffiti

Posted at 6:31 PM, May 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-28 22:23:45-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Judy Nelmark stays with her sister and brother-in-law, and the married couple has lived in their Grand Rapids home for nearly half-a-century.

"49 years without a bit of trouble," Nelmark said.

She described the southwest side neighborhood as "quiet, very quiet at night." However, in the middle of the night, someone took advantage and disturbed the peace.   Nelmark woke up to find gang symbols spray painted on the front of her Rose Street home.

"Couldn't believe they did that to somebody else's house. Never had this happen. Never," she said.

Nelmark added, "Destroying people's property ain't the right thing to do."

Her family isn't alone. It appears at least six homes were tagged early Thursday morning on Rose and Stewart (which is around the corner).  Nelmark said she called the police before calling FOX 17.  Officers came out and made a report.

"We know in the spring we're going to have a graffiti issue, and we fight through that every single season," Lt. Patrick Merrill with the Grand Rapids Police Department said.

He said that's why the police department and the city have a very aggressive and proactive graffiti abatement program. He said tagging is a crime of opportunity. For example, vandals like to strike where there is poor lighting.

"You'll have people attempting to tag jurisdictional or areas of authority. People believe there's a gang here (for example), and then you'll quickly see somebody painting an 'x' over that and putting their mark up," Merrill said.

However, he said no gangs have clear control over any one area in the city. So it's a back and forth.

Merrill said it's often young people self-identifying as gang members who deface the property. The biggest challenge, he said, is getting home owners to allow city workers to come onto their property to clean up the mess free-of-charge. If it's a rental, that's another barrier.  Grand Rapids residents can call 311 to report vandalism to the city.

"Then it gets prioritized by public services, and we actually use different programs for that. We may use trustees from the jail, for instance, to help us clean or paint over. We have a limited number of colors to work with in the city but the abatement team does a great job,” Merrill said. ​

"Whoever's [sic] kids are doing it, their parents better take care of them," Nelmark said.

Police said this isn’t an indication of increased gang activity on tap for the summer. Rather, more graffiti appears this time of year after a decrease during the winter.