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Police emphasize caution as gang graffiti increases in city
Police wary of graffiti near campus
By Bryan Mann

February 21, 2006

In the tunnel where the Paint Branch Trail cuts underneath Baltimore Avenue, there are concrete walls with gray blocks of paint covering what was originally spray-painted letters and symbols, probably created by a gang member or members, according to University Police.

University Police spokeswoman Maj. Cathy Atwell said gang graffiti is on the rise in College Park and police are concerned gang activity “happening around the county might come to the campus.” While no gang-related graffiti has infiltrated the campus yet, Atwell advises students to be cautious.

“I know that the MS-13 is a gang that is here in the county and close to campus. ... Students should be aware of that and should be cautious,” she said.

Also known as Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13 is a major gang that operates throughout the county. MS-13 is known to be an extremely violent group with approximately 10,000 members nationwide. It started in Los Angeles in the 1980s and spread to the East Coast.

Prince George’s County spokesman Lt. Terence Sheppard said there has been gang-related activity in the county, but it is hard to examine the exact situation in College Park. He said he’s unsure whether recent crime was committed by gang members.

Sheppard also said the county’s gang task force concentrates on studying and curtailing gang-related activity, taking pictures of any graffiti that is reported and determining whether it is gang-related.

The task force has to analyze where graffiti is happening and whether it is genuinely done by gang members, Sheppard said. Usually police can tell if graffiti is gang-related by letters that are the marks of certain gangs, such as “MS-13.”

Atwell said specifics about the graffiti under the tunnel near the campus are unknown.

In a November interview, Capt. Kevin Davis, executive officer of patrol services for the county police, said he recognizes a recent problem with gangs in the county and three years ago, police created the gang task force to combat gangs. The task force includes police officers from several counties and five FBI special agents.

“Throughout the region, gangs are an issue, and it is something that is fairly new,” Davis said in the interview. “We are prepared to deal with it.”