After city officials created Navarro’s position, graffiti-removal calls dropped by about 4,000 incidents in April, May and June, compared to the same period last year, officials said. Police have made about 200 arrests of adults and juveniles for graffiti vandalism since March, including about 30 people charged with felony vandalism. “Graffiti’s approximately 20percent down now, but we still have a long way to go,” said Montebello Mayor Bob Bagwell. Next month, a city-hired company will start helping Montebello crews in removing graffiti. In addition, the city next month will begin using the Graffiti Tracker program, which uses satellite tracking system software and Global Positioning System technology to database and track graffiti and tagging incidents. In other cities where Graffiti Tracker has been used, police have been able to arrest repeat taggers by linking them to individual tagging locations, even if police have not witnessed the tagger in the act. The system also reveals areas that are being hit hard by taggers. “We’re pinpointing the culprits,” Bagwell said. “Police can take a tag name, put it in a computer, and see a pattern. They’re able to track it to a small location, so we can put our resources there.” While it’s still an uphill fight, Bagwell is hopeful the city’s aggressive enforcement campaign is sending a message that if you tag in Montebello, you’re likely to get caught, go to jail and pay restitution to the city. “I can remember when the city was so strapped, painting out graffiti was taking away money to pay for lifeguards at the city swimming pool,” said Bagwell. “I hear people say they can see a decline in graffiti now, and hopefully they’re getting the message that the city’s not going to be messing around anymore.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MONTEBELLO – Taggers and graffiti vandals are getting hit where it hurts – paying hundreds of dollars in restitution to this city, where officials spent more than $400,000 cleaning it up last year. Since coming on board earlier this year as the city’s full-time graffiti investigator, Montebello Police Department Detective Ismael Navarro has been instrumental in recovering nearly $9,000 in court-ordered restitution from convicted offenders. What’s more, vandals are now drawing jail time, a dramatic change from years past when tagging and scrawling graffiti typically drew the offender community service with no jail sentence. About $7,500 of the $9,000 will be coming from eight adults convicted of felony graffiti vandalism who are now serving jail time and were ordered by the courts to pay restitution upon their release, Navarro said. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2“Now they have to pay us as soon as they get out of jail, or they go back for a year,” Navarro said. “We’re getting felony convictions based on evidence from photos, interviews, intelligence and their admissions,” he added. “It’s unique, because the mentality of a lot of people is, if the police don’t catch you tagging, you won’t get convicted.” The successes in court have come with Navarro working overtime. But city officials say it’s paying off: Incidents of graffiti have fallen by 20percent since he began focusing on the problem in March, and that could mean savings in cleanup costs. “I’m working all the time,” Navarro said. “I’m supposed to only work four days a week, but I’m on the clock all the time. I’m always here, and I’m in court a lot.” Last year, city crews cleaned up more than 56,000 graffiti locations – up from only about 9,000 in 2003. In 2005, crews removed graffiti from 27,709 locations.