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AHS cannot tolerate gang activity

The wall of the band room was tagged with gang graffiti recently. Photo by Harper Pambrun

On Monday, Nov. 4 graffiti including phrases and symbols referencing notorious Californian gangs was found spray-painted onto AHS property by an unknown vandal. The graffiti appeared on a wall of the band room and displayed numbers as well as the phrase “Westside Shoota” spray-painted onto the wall. Staff at AHS painted over the graffiti with white spray-paint by Tuesday, Nov. 12, over a week after the vandalism occurred. Students at AHS know that it is prohibited by law and by the school to vandalize school and public property. Graffiti here at AHS that has anything to do with gangs or violence should not be tolerated here on AHS campus. Since gang-related activity is rare in Atascadero, why would a student want to vandalize a wall with a gang sign they most likely are not actually affiliated with? Are these “wannabe gangsters”? If so, AHS needs to send a strong message: Gang activity will not be tolerated on this campus ever.

Over the same weekend other buildings in Atascadero were “tagged” with similar gang related phrases. These buildings include the Jason Pambrun DDS Orthodontist office, a brick wall near Vons, and a wall near McDonalds on Morro Road. Any students who decide to inflict such heinous acts on school property can and should be given serious consequences by the administration. What does gang related graffiti even even have to do with AHS? Many students wonder why someone, especially if the vandal is a student, would even want to be affiliated with such violent gangs. It is definitely “not cool” here at AHS.

The gang that was referenced in the graffiti was the “Crips,” a notorious group that has been known for their violent acts and criminal activity in the Los Angeles County area, but are not active in SLO County or in Atascadero. I believe that the person or persons who created the graffiti is just pretending to be part of the “Crips” gang, in other words, a “wanna-be gangster.”

Any person who is affiliated with a gang is breaking the law by participating in gang-related activities, according to the California Penal Code 186.22 PC. This code makes it illegal to participate in any criminal street gang, hold any knowledge that any gang members have or participate in criminal gang activity, willfully promote a gang, or assist in any felonious criminal conduct by other members of a gang. Anyone who violates this code may be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for less than one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months to two to three years.

Gangs who are known for their violent actions in Los Angeles do not need to be represented in the small town of Atascadero, and especially not on the AHS campus. According to AHS Vice Principal Mr. Allen, “Each time vandalism is reported, we do an investigation and often Atascadero Police are involved as well.” Specific information regarding students is confidential due to legal requirements. If a student happens to be found guilty of vandalism, he or she will be punished. Mr. Allen reported that, ”There can be a school suspension combined with the requirement of paying damages. If damages are great enough, a student can be arrested and face criminal charges.”

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