VAN NUYS : 5 Tagging Suspects Arrested in Raids

An anti-graffiti tagging task force made up of police officers from throughout the county raided four locations early Wednesday and arrested five people on felony vandalism charges.

The suspects--four juveniles and one 18-year-old--are suspected of causing $38,000 in damages involving graffiti-related vandalism in recent months, including $11,000 worth of damage to a Simi Valley Freeway off-ramp, said Los Angeles Police Detective Craig Rhudy in Van Nuys.

All were expected to be held in custody until Friday, when they are scheduled to be arraigned, said Rhudy, coordinator of the Community Tagger Task Force. Authorities said the suspects were members of a prominent tagging crew known as ATR, or Above The Rest, which they believe has targeted freeways and personal, public and railroad property with graffiti.

When conducting searches of the alleged taggers' homes, police found a videotape of one of the juveniles spraying his moniker on a wall, and plan to use it as evidence against him, Rhudy said.

Sergio Rosas, 18, of Mission Hills was being held in Van Nuys Jail on $10,000 bail. The juveniles arrested were 15- and 16-year-old boys from North Hills and a 17-year-old boy and girl from Mission Hills, Rhudy said.

The four juveniles were being held at Sylmar Juvenile Hall. All five of the suspects were at their homes when police arrived with search warrants at 7 a.m. and arrested them.

Rhudy said police from the San Fernando Police Department, the Los Angeles Community College Police Department at Mission College, the Mass Transit Authority police and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department's Foothill and Van Nuys divisions participated in the arrests.

Since July, the task force has arrested 15 felony taggers believed to have done more than $200,000 in vandalism, Rhudy said.

The juveniles face a maximum three years in local juvenile detention facilities, and Rosas faces up to a year in state prison and a $1,000 fine. All of them face possible restitution charges and penalties, Rhudy said.

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