North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Local businesses worry about graffiti, vandalism


November 6, 2008

Marja Oosterwyk was glad to hear that the city is sponsoring a Gang Awareness forum for the public on Thursday, November 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Grove Elementary School gym at 6510 Grove Street.

"I wish kids weren't so destructive," said the local business woman, owner of Oosterwyk's Bakery on 3rd Street in Marysville.

Oosterwyk was recently the victim of graffiti tagging and a theft. The perpetrators gained access to the roof of her historic building and completed a 2-day "art project" that damaged the original brick façade and caused the tenant of an upstairs apartment to break her lease.

"She [the tenant] didn't even hear anything and that scared her," said Oosterwyk. "The last straw was when they came back the next week and stole a little glass table and some wrought iron chairs from her patio."

The community forum, entitled "Understanding the Gangster Mentality," will help parents and others better recognize the impact of gangs on communities, families and individuals, along with the warning signs that suggest gang involvement. The evening is intended for adults only and will feature a presentation by Christopher Grant, a nationally renowned expert on street gangs.

Oosterwyk praised the city's response to her graffiti reports.

"They're doing the best they can," she said of local police. "They were out here right away when I reported the damage and took pictures, but that didn't help much." The taggers painted an outline the first night, then came back the next evening to enlarge and complete the design.

Because she wanted to restore the vintage brick work, Oosterwyk hired specialist painters to remove the graffiti, which cost her thousands of dollars.

"Why doesn't the city impose a curfew?" she wondered. "Other cities do that, to cut down on kids roaming the streets at night."

Marysville leaders recognize the dangers of allowing gangs to gain a foothold in the community, and hope that educating parents will help curtail illegal juvenile activity.

In addition to the public meeting, Grant will lead workshops over two days for city leaders and educators. A retired chief of detectives with the Rapid City, SD, police department and former commander of the area's Gang Task Force, Grant has spent more than 20 years studying and helping to combat gang activity within a community similar in size to Marysville.


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