RCMP look to public to catch graffiti artists

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Recent graffiti sprees have Okotoks RCMP looking to the public for help finding suspects.

Over the past three weeks, RCMP officers have been working with Okotoks Municipal Enforcement and the RCMP Crime Prevention Unit to patrol public spaces on the lookout for graffiti artists.

Okotoks Sgt. Sukh Randhawa said the two main tags of concern are the signatures “OCA” and “GAWD.”

“These ones are quite popular now,” said Randhawa. “We don’t know who exactly is doing all this, we’re just trying to really focus on this.”

RCMP are reaching out to the public for assistance in identifying the individuals responsible for the OCA and GAWD signatures, he said.

Randhawa said it’s most likely local youth, adding he doesn’t believe the suspects are from out of town.

Another of interest is the tag “NBO,” which he said police know to stand for “Natural Born Outlaws,” a name he said is not believed to be gang-related, despite how it sounds.

“I believe it’s going to be just a bunch of kids got together and came up with a fancy name like a gangster name,” said Randhawa. “We see [NBO] from time to time as well, but not so much as we’re seeing the OCA and GAWD lately.”

He said there is no evidence of gang activity in Okotoks, so it’s likely any graffiti is more mischievous and a nuisance for the community than anything.

A recent swastika painted on a sign on Milligan Drive was also deemed to be a random event and not related to any gang activity, though it is a hate crime in nature, he said.

“I don’t believe the swastika on the sign is gang-related or anything like that,” said Randhawa. “It’s just somebody being goofy and stupid.”

There are other tags that show up around town, but they tend to be more random and less frequent, he said. They can range from vulgar words and phrases to crude images or simple initials, he said.

Graffiti tends to pop up throughout town, and no specific neighbourhood seems to be a target, he said.

“That’s where we’re frustrated with it, too,” said Randhawa. “If it was one community are we could say, ‘These kids could be here,’ and we could target that area.”

He said RCMP and municipal enforcement have been out on foot patrols on weekends and at all hours of the night, but have not managed to catch anyone in the act.

RCMP is now asking residents to be vigilant and report any instances of graffiti or hate crime to police. It’s important to note a description of the individual and the location of the act, but not approach the subject, said Randhawa.

“Don’t engage, but call the police – ‘At this time we saw this guy spray painting here and he went into this area,’” he said. “Then we can follow up on that.”

Anyone with information about graffiti in town is asked to call the Okotoks RCMP detachment at 403-995-6400.

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