Surge in gang graffiti alarms people in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- An increase in gang graffiti has some frustrated citizens calling for a crackdown.

Volunteers with Wyandotte Countians Against Crime have been busy near North 22nd Street and Grandview Boulevard documenting evidence for police.

The community group has taken photos of 117 separate incidents of buildings and fences covered with gang graffiti, just in the past two days.

"It’s one in particular gang, the SPVs," said Paul Soptick, the group's president. "They are painting anything that doesn’t move."

The spray painting identifies gangs like the SPVs and the 22nd Street Boys.

Soptick works with police and city codes inspectors to try to get the messages removed as quickly as possible.

The crime is only a misdemeanor, but Soptick says he's been successful getting gang members charged with a felony when he shows multiple instances of gang signs are tied to the same criminal.

"Graffiti basically tells a story," Soptick said. "It’s like our Facebook for the gang thugs. They tell their story. They talk to each other. They do recruitment. They tell rival gangs to stay out of their territory. They issue threats. The 187 you see on there is the California penal code for murder. So they try to tell everybody get out or we will kill you."

Soptick says citizens need to notify police as soon as gang recruitment tags pop up.

And call 311 in KCK to get codes enforcement officers involved. The city has a crew of two that does nothing but paint over graffiti every work day.

Wyandotte Countians Against Crime have asked retailers not to sell spray paint to anyone under 18. Soptick says his group is pushing to ban spray paint sales to minors as a city ordinance.