Tagger Defaces Pine Elementary School

Removing paint from property is costly

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The walls of Pine Elementary School have more than the ABCs written on them these days.

Mike Clark, superintendent of the Pine Elementary School District, said a "tagger" has been hitting his school and leaving graffiti signed "PHX 602" and "203 Los Angeles" on walls and buildings.

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Graffiti left by numerous "taggers" including "PHX 602" cover the underside of the Pine Creek Bridge.

Many of the other phrases are vulgar in nature and cannot be published.

"This is the entire community's school and it upsets me that our kids have been exposed to the kind of vulgar language this tagger has left on the walls and bus stop," Clark said.

He said graffiti left by the tagger has so far cost the district about $1,000 to remove from walls and other school property.

All of the graffiti has, up to this point, been confined to outside walls and the bus stop, nothing inside the school itself.

"I hate to give this person the visibility and notoriety he/she wants, but perhaps more awareness by the citizens of the community will eventually lead to his/her arrest," Clark said.

The tagger has left more than 30 messages on school property and has cost the district money in repairs it can ill afford, Clark said.

"Can we pay for this, yes, but it's a cost it would have been better not to have had to deal with," he said.

"I'm probably taking this a little more personally than the average person would," Clark said. "But I am really upset that this could happen at this community's school."

Clark was most upset by the fact that the tagger went beyond defacing school property and apparently chose to urinate all over the interior of the bus stop.

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A stop sign near Pine Elementary School was among the targeted items.

"Because of it [urine in the bus stop] I have been forced to put a biohazard sign on it and prohibit its use until we can get it completely cleaned out," he added.

Clark said that the Pine Fire Department came out and used one of their hoses with foam spray to try and clean out the urine, but that it will require further cleaning and disinfections before students will be able to use it again.

Students who attend Payson High School primarily use the bus stop, however children from the elementary school inevitably pass by it daily on their way to and from school, Clark said.

He said that in the three years he has been at the Pine School District, he has seen very little of this kind of trouble.

Clark said the school's resource officer, Sheriff's Department Officer Darrell Stubbs, told him the "PHX 602" markings are a common tagging associated with people in Phoenix, not Pine.

He said PHX 602 refers to the area code used in Phoenix and the tagger could be sending a message to locals that he is in town.

"It might have some gang connection [with Phoenix] but I'm not saying it does," he said. "The only gang that I was aware of [in the area] were called the ‘Cool Pine Killers', but they were mostly out of Payson."

Clark said he is disappointed something like this could happen in Pine.

"The only good thing is that all this white stuff [writing] was in chalk and it has been pretty easy to clean off," Clark said.

He quickly pointed out, however, that other graffiti was left in purple spray paint and has taken numerous hours to remove or cover up.

Numerous taggings have also been spray painted under the Pine Creek bridge, which will be a cost likely ultimately borne by taxpayers, regardless of who actually does the removal.

"These individuals, whoever they are, have been busy," Clark said.

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