Gang arrests top 300 since March
Police: Graffiti suspects caught in the act

DULUTH - Five teens wielding spray paint and markers were the latest catch for Gwinnett police's new gang task force, an initiative responsible for arresting 300 gang members in six weeks, police said.

In an effort to crack down on gang activity in Gwinnett, personnel from the county's existing police gang task force recently joined forces with community response units. The 35-member squad has worked with agencies such as the FBI and ICE to gather intelligence, make arrests and initiate special investigations.

Since the task force materialized March 9, the group has tallied 308 arrests and 535 citations, Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman said.

Gangs in the county are involved in a number of illegal enterprises, from dealing drugs and stealing cars to prostitution and burglary, police said.

Gang activity starts among teenagers, as was evidenced by five recent graffiti arrests, police said.

· On April 2, two 14-year-old boys were arrested on trespassing charges for allegedly tagging the Covered Bridge Subdivision in Duluth. Police said both juveniles associate themselves with the Latin Kings gang.

· On April 6, an officer found three teens carrying spray paint and markers near the intersection of Old Norcross Road and Hopkins Mill Road, a known graffiti trouble spot in Duluth. Suspects include a 16-year-old Duluth teen, Jorge Maravilla, 18, of Duluth, and Jobanny Sanchez, 17, of Winder. All three were charged with interference with government property, a felony, for tagging several roadway signs in the area, police said.

Who is responsible for graffiti clean-up depends on where taggers put it.

When graffiti appears on county property, such as stop signs and road markers, police usually call officials with local nonprofit Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful for clean-up work, Gwinnett police spokesman Officer David Schiralli said.

Graffiti on private property is a different matter. Homeowners have 72 hours to remove graffiti before officers can issue a notice informing them they're violating the law. Should the graffiti remain, officers can issue citations, Schiralli said.

Exactly when the citation is issued "is up to the discretion of the officer, depending on the extent of the violation," he said.