AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsNavarro found five locations with the same moniker officials had linked to Dominguez. The damage added up to hundreds of dollars – and a felony charge of graffiti vandalism for Dominguez. “Tagger mentality is `as long as I don’t get caught, they can’t pin it on me,”‘ said Navarro. “Now, I can pin all of their vandalism on them, even if we just catch them tagging one place.” It’s all part and parcel of the city’s new, tougher approach to tackling graffiti, which costs Montebello more than $300,000 a year in cleanup costs, said police Chief Garry Couso-Vasquez. “We could use that money for other good things,” he said. In the past two years, graffiti has increased nearly seven-fold in Montebello. Navarro, who had led the department’s graffiti task force up until 2003, was reassigned to patrol that year because of budget shortages. That’s when graffiti began to soar in the city, Couso-Vasquez said. In 2003, city public works employees removed graffiti from 8,443 locations. Last year, vandals hit more than 56,000 locations. Along with the newly reconstituted graffiti task force, the Police Department is purchasing a cutting-edge graffiti tracking system, which uses global positioning satellite technology to map vandalism. The Graffiti Tracker system can, with the click of a mouse, make elaborate records of the vandalism of individual graffiti taggers instantly available. It is Internet-based and can connect with Google’s Mapquest program to show a map of all the locations that an individual tagger has vandalized. Since Navarro joined the anti-graffiti effort in March, officers have made 74 misdemeanor arrests and 10 felony arrests for graffiti vandalism. That same month, workers cleaned graffiti from 4,731 locations. In April, however, the number of cleanups decreased to 3,790 – the lowest number of instances since March 2005. One of Navarro’s prime tools are his detailed files on area tagging crews. Each folder contains a list of crew members and their photos, along with photographs of their tags and booking photos of individuals who have been arrested. His ability to testify in court as an expert in graffiti and tagging also helps bring convictions for taggers, Navarro said. He can explain to a jury how he is able to recognize the handwriting of individual taggers, which enables him to link them to specific instances of vandalism. “He is taking photos. He’s got something to show jurors and suspects as he’s interviewing them,” said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maral Injejikian, who hears felony graffiti vandalism cases at East Los Angeles Court. “Hypothetically, it’s easier to get convictions if you can show a jury what it looked like,” she added. Navarro also researches how much damage was caused in a particular graffiti case and is able to testify to that in court. If the damage amounts to less than $400, the case is filed as a misdemeanor; anything over $400 can warrant a felony charge. If a tagging defendant is convicted, the court can order him to pay restitution. A felony conviction for graffiti vandalism can net the tagger up to five years in prison. “For taggers, graffiti is fun – until you start getting $4,000 bills in the mail. Their parents go nuts,” said Navarro. “With collaboration between the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the courts and officers, we’re going to get you sooner or later.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MONTEBELLO – Moses Dominguez is in jail facing a felony charge that could put him in prison for two to five years. His alleged crime? Carrying a marker pen and defacing property. After Montebello police arrested the 27-year-old local resident last month for carrying a marker and interviewed him, Dominguez admitted to being the author of a certain graffiti moniker, officials said. Armed with that piece of information, Detective Ismael Navarro, assigned in March to head up the city’s anti-graffiti task force, pored through dozens of photographs officials have taken of graffiti throughout the city.