By DANIELLE BANG
Graffiti began to appear around the UHS and Rancho Middle School (RMS) areas starting from early December of last year.
The graffiti pieces are spray painted versions of the words “KUSTO” or sometimes “KUSTOE.” The Irvine Police Department (IPD) suspects they are the work of a single person. Officer Farrah Emami provided information that the tagger could have materials related to creating graffiti and would be around 14 to 21 years old.
The Facebook page of the IPD expanded on this information, saying that the graffiti was found on bike trails between Culver Drive and Irvine Center Drive.
The debate of whether or not graffiti is art has always existed; however, many members of the community disapprove of this recent instance of graffiti despite its possible artistic connection. “I think graffiti is just another form of art, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of others,” said Rachell Pak (Jr.). “The graffiti becomes a burden for the city, which then has to clean up after someone who doesn’t respect everyone’s environment.”
According to the OC Register, when graffiti on public property is reported to the IPD, it calls contractor Naturalwell to clean the graffiti. Naturalwell also cleans private property for a fee. If the property is managed by the country, national agencies are responsible for cleaning the graffiti. Removing graffiti can be done with just paint remover found at hardware stores. Some graffiti, however, is difficult to remove and requires industrial-strength product.
Other students at UHS are unaware of the graffiti found in Irvine. “I see no graffiti anywhere. Irvine is a suburban area, so it does not seem to have much problems with graffiti,” said Celine Kim (Jr.).
Several students at RMS have also not seen the graffiti described. “Vandalizing with graffiti is disrespectful and inappropriate,” said Joy Chen. “However, I think that graffiti art is cool if you’re given permission to do it and use those privileges respectfully.”
Some parents are concerned. “Graffiti gives the impression that the neighborhood is not a safe neighborhood. Historically, graffiti has been understood to be representations of gang groups,” said Madison Ahn, parent of a UHS student. “It also becomes an issue with property rights.”
The IPD asks that anyone who sees someone making graffiti call 911; anyone who knows information regarding the identification of this tagger should call 949-724-7000.
UPDATE (March 2, 2016):
According to Irvine Police Department’s (IPD) Facebook page, IPD reported to have caught the 17 year old juvenile tagger suspected to be responsible for almost 70 taggers. IPD did not specify whether or not the tagger was related to the “KUSTO”/“KUSTOE” taggers.
“The moniker is not being publicized as we believe notoriety was the suspect’s motivation in these crimes.” said officer Michael Kent.
The tagger is facing felony vandalism charges and was charged with damage of about $10,000. IPD believes that the tagger vandalized single-handedly and was not gang related.