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Local Business Owner Says No to Graffiti in His Town

SPRING HILL – There is a big difference between Tagger Graffiti and Gang Graffiti, and if you're from a major city like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, you are very familiar with both. Taggers are basically street artists who enjoy the thrill of tagging a building, train, or other large structure, and it's often used to express opinions on social issues. Gang graffiti is more sinister, as it often used to mark territory, challenge other gangs to violent acts, and intimidate residents. Either way, it's still considered vandalism and a violation of law.

Earlier this week, R News received pictures of what appeared to be gang graffiti painted on a white fence along Powell Road. We posted the pictures on our social media pages and asked the community if they looked familiar. Nick Smith of Dura Guard Paver Sealing immediately commented and offered to clean the fence at no charge. Dura Guard happens to be a long-time R News sponsor. On Tuesday, R News met with Smith at the location and watched as he used a special chemical to quickly melt away the vandal's "artwork." Smith says, "We're only 800 yards away from my daughter's elementary school. Her school bus passes through here every day. This is an anti-law enforcement thing about calling cops pigs. You know, we don't live in the hood. This isn't a ghetto town, this is a small country town and it's not the kind of look I want around where I'm raising my family," He goes on to poke fun at the vandals by saying, "If you've got a problem with this, come find me, I'm easy to find."

Hernando County has seen a rise in both kinds of graffiti, but the latter is becoming more prevalent, and that raises concerns for some residents. Since the onset of the pandemic, the population has grown significantly in Hernando County, as droves of people flee northern states to avoid strict regulations, inflation, and extremely high taxes. But they have also fled those states due to the rise in crime. With an increase in population, a higher crime rate often follows, especially if efforts to combat criminal activity doesn't correspond with growth. Compound a rising population to the number of undocumented illegal aliens entering Florida, and communities historically see a rise gang related crime.

Hernando County Commissioner Steve Champion says there has been a noticeable increase in crime in Hernando County across the board, but he blames the recent spike in population and the Biden Administration for the surge. "Hernando County's population has grown exponentially since the pandemic. The mass exodus from blue states and Biden's demoralizing position on law enforcement has caused and increase in crime all over the county, not just our community," say's Champion. He goes on to praise the men and women of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office for doing the best job they can under the circumstances. Champion also applauds Smith's selfless action and says, "We need more people like Nick Smith with Dura Guard to step up and help keep our community looking beautiful."

Retired New York City Police Officer Joe Puglia says, "From a law enforcement standpoint tagging can be a sign of gang activity. Local law enforcement needs to be proactive as the community changes. When you observe changes like these, you need to have your resources in tune and have a finger on the pulse. They need to be both proactive and have a reactive plan to deal with organized crime and gang activity." Puglia continues, "Seeing a company like Dura Guard do their part to keep the town clean is a good sign that people care about their community – we should all do our part."

Gangs like the Bloods, Latin Kings and more recently MS 13 have made their presence known in Hernando County. Last year, R News reported the arrest of 5 Latin King members who allegedly beat a fellow gang member to death for wanting to leave the gang. The incident happened less than a mile from Chocachatti Elementary School in 2021.

We reached out to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office for comment on the rise in gang activity, but they have not responded to our inquiries.


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