War Zone

The streets are cleaner and graffiti is down – just don’t look in Ridgewood and Glendale.

Graffiti complaints spiked sharply in the two Queens neighborhoods last year – up to 800 from 262 in 2009. This stands in stark contrast to citywide numbers, which saw 9,850 graffiti complaints last year, down from 10,162 in 2009.

The jump in Queens graffiti cannot be attributed to just one perpetrator, but District Attorney Richard A. Brown recently announced that a Brooklyn man was charged with multiple graffiti crimes across Queens.

The defendant, Alexander Thompson, was arraigned on a 42-count indictment with defacing 21 bus shelters by using acid to burn his graffiti tags “GEAR” and “G7” onto the structures – causing more than $5,100 in damages.

“Graffiti is a symptom of crime and negatively affects the quality of life of all citizens through decreased property values, increased taxes and a financial burden on affected businesses and homes,” said Brown. “City officials and anti-graffiti activists have done a remarkable job over the years in cleaning up New York City’s image as a graffiti scarred city. We will not allow such individuals to mar the beauty of our city or threaten to return us to the days when our transit system and our highways and buildings were covered with graffiti.”

In a separate case, Brown noted that another individual was charged in connection with graffiti crimes. Matthew Young, 21, of Ridgewood, was charged in seven criminal complaints with fourth-degree criminal mischief for spraying his tag “SAONE” on more than 50 separate occasions in the neighborhoods of Glendale, Richmond Hill and Forest Hills.

Young allegedly wrote his tag on buildings, light poles, traffic signs, railroad overpasses, a bus shelter and even a marked police van.

Four precincts in Queens hold the highest number of graffiti arrests this year, but Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. said the statistics do not tell the whole story. The 104th Precinct, which covers Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village, has the highest amount of arrests – followed by the 108th, 109th and 114th Precincts, according to a law enforcement official.

“Graffiti complaints and arrests are driven by the resources put into reporting and arresting these vandals, not by the actual amount of graffiti,” said Vallone. “I commend these Queens precincts for focusing on this serious problem. Graffiti is up throughout the city, and the best way to determine this is not through the numbers, but by looking at the writing on the wall.”

Vallone has been an anti-graffiti advocate who has introduced laws to combat the growing graffiti problem.

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