Authorities say they've busted several members of an L.A. County graffiti crew that calls itself PUNKS, for People You Know Killing Shit.
Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputies say the crew had been tagging trains, buses and properties throughout the county. It took 90 deputies to take down the suspects, according to a statement. Yesterday the accused were hit with formal charges.
Seven men and one women, ages 19 to 21, were arrested after early-morning search warrants were served at 11 locations last week. Sheriff's officials said in the statement that the bust targeted "specific members of the crew that investigators had positively identified as committing crimes aboard Metro."
The sheriff's Transit Policing Division and Crime Impact Team led the crackdown.
The arrests happened in the cities of Los Angeles, Bell, Downey, Huntington Park, South Gate and Walnut Park, deputies said. All the suspects, save for a 26-year-old nabbed on an unrelated warrant during search operations, were booked and eventually charged with suspicion of felony vandalism, authorities said.
The case might later be enhanced by gang allegations, sheriff's officials said, because "the 'PUNKS' tagging crew used intimidation and fear against innocents and rivals," according to the statement.
Deputy Mark Marriott-Lodge said that if the suspects can't pay restitution to the taxpayers and other victims, they'd have to forfeit their rights.
"If criminal vandals want to gain 'fame and notoriety' by tagging and damaging businesses and public transportation, they need to understand that law enforcement is going to extraordinary lengths to ensure it now costs them significant jail time and restitution," Marriott-Lodge said. "Each act of tagging adds jail time and monies they will have to repay. Suspects unable to pay restitution are commonly held on formal probation [and] subject to 'search and seizure' by law enforcement for years."
Sgt. Henry Saenz said that graffiti vandals cause hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to Metro buses and trains.
Deputies are on the case, he said, often using social media to track down spray-can criminals.
"We currently use several different technologies, including social media, to help us identify those responsible," Saenz said.