Los Angeles – On Wednesday, August 23, 2000, Transit Bus Division, Graffiti Habitual Offender Suppression Team (GHOST) officers completed a two month investigation into a series of graffiti vandalisms with the arrest of Carlos Montenegro, age 24, for 594 P.C. (b) (1) (felony vandalism). Montenegro was arrested after evidence, recovered via a search warrant on July 25, was presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office resulting in the issuance of a felony arrest warrant. Montenegro was taken into custody without incident in the 500 block of Mariposa Avenue in Los Angeles. The felony filing for graffiti vandalism is the first in Los Angeles County enacted pursuant to Proposition 21 which was approved by the voters on March 7, 2000.
The revised felony graffiti section was enacted after the filing of felony graffiti vandalism charges via "aggrandizing" was overturned by the California Supreme Court in 1997. Prior to the latter, multiple acts of graffiti vandalism could be aggrandized into an amount exceeding $5,000 which met the felony vandalism standard. As the majority of single occurrence graffiti vandalisms rarely reached the $5,000 threshold, felony filing for major graffiti taggers dropped to almost nil. As the acts of graffiti vandalism reached into the multi-million dollar range and became one of the biggest quality of life concerns expressed by residents, Law Enforcement Associations including the California District Attorney’s Association, Sheriff’s Association, and Police Chief’s Association sponsored Proposition 21. Subsequently, the ballot measure was overwhelmingly passed by the voters. The new standard for felony vandalism is now set at $400 and can be prosecuted as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the individual circumstances of the crime.
Montenegro was arrested after evidence was recovered linking him to the $ 2,800 graffiti vandalism of a Los Angeles Police Department bus. He is also being investigated for seven other acts of graffiti vandalism. He is currently on probation for prior graffiti vandalism acts. Montenegro is currently being held on $20,000 bail and is scheduled for arraignment in Department 30, 2000 for three felony counts and one misdemeanor count of graffiti vandalism.
The GHOST unit was formed in 1989 under the former Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department (LACMTAPD). The LACMTAPD was assimilated into the LAPD on November 23, 1997 and since then the GHOST unit has been quadrupled in size. GHOST officers ride buses and trains within Los Angeles City in an undercover capacity.
To date they have arrested or cited 2,884 juveniles or adults caught in the act of graffiti vandalism. The LACMTAPD estimates that it loses as much as $10 million a year to graffiti vandalism repairs to buses, trains and other property. It is hoped that the new law and the publicity surrounding the felony filing on Carlos Montenegro will give pause to graffiti vandals and help eliminate a blight that affects all of Los Angeles County.
Questions should be directed to either Captain Vance Proctor 213-922-5101 or Officer Evan Guevarra 213-922-5131.
This press release was prepared by Public Information Officer Jason Lee, Media Relations Section 213-485-3586.