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Would-Be Muralists Confess to Graffiti : Vandalism: Police link pair to West Valley tagging. Councilwoman Picus pledged city funds for them to complete Reseda art project.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two teen-age graffiti artists commissioned by Los Angeles Councilwoman Joy Picus to paint a historical mural have been arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism for defacing property with spray paint throughout the west San Fernando Valley, police said Thursday.

The youths--Marco Cisneros, 15, and Larry Chavez, 16, both of Reseda--were arrested the day before Thanksgiving, said Los Angeles Police Lt. William Gaida.

They confessed to “tagging” their nicknames on at least 76 mailboxes, telephone poles and walls from Canoga Park to Van Nuys, causing $14,000 in damage, he said.

“These two boys are not artists--they’re vandals,” Gaida said. “We’ve resolved a major vandalism problem.”

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Earlier this month, Picus pledged to provide $2,400 from the city’s anti-graffiti funds for a mural tracing the history of Reseda, which the boys were to have painted under the aegis of a Venice arts organization. However, Picus was unaware that one of the youths had been arrested twice before on suspicion of misdemeanor vandalism, said Edward F. Roes, a Picus aide.

“It’s a bummer,” Roes said. “We figured they were young artists. We had no idea of their criminal activities.”

But after The Times reported the events leading to the historical mural commission, police recognized the youths’ tag names--"Anger” and “Kosk,” which stands for Krazy Obscene King, and arrested them, Gaida said.

The boys came to Picus’ attention after they obtained a Reseda homeowner’s permission to paint a mural on a wall facing busy Vanowen Street. The mural, depicting a bare-breasted woman wearing a bandoleer of ammunition being leered at by a man with an extra-long tongue, provoked protests from passersby and neighbors.

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After the boys agreed earlier this month to replace the offending mural with artwork on a Christmas theme, Picus commissioned the historical work as part of an effort to redirect young graffiti artists. The mural was to be supervised by the Social and Public Art Resource Center, or SPARC, a private, nonprofit organization.

Roes said Picus will consult with police and SPARC members before deciding whether to allow the youths to paint the historical mural or to rescind the commission.

“We have no intention of supporting graffiti in any way,” Roes said. “But it may be a good idea to keep the kids on board as rehabilitation.”

Alan Nakagawa, head of educational outreach for SPARC, said the youths should be allowed to participate in the project.

“Although we don’t endorse what they did, I’d like to see them continue on the project to show them an alternative to graffiti,” Nakagawa said. “The reality is, a lot of the kids we hire are past taggers. Murals are one of the best ways to deter that.”

But Gaida said the youths did not learn their lesson from previous arrests and should not be rewarded with the commission. One of the youths--whom he would not identify--had been arrested twice before, on Sept. 1 and Nov. 5, by officers who caught him in the act of spray-painting mailboxes and lampposts in Reseda, he said.

When they were arrested Nov. 21, “they were somewhat proud of what they had done,” Gaida said. He is recommending that the boys be sentenced to community service cleaning up graffiti. Both boys have been released pending sentencing, he said.

Larry, who is known as “Kosk,” said Thursday in a telephone interview that he would like Picus to give him a second chance.

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“The tagging was a way of getting fame, but it’s in the past,” he said, adding that his parents had punished him by grounding him indefinitely.


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