OAKLAND, Calif. (Jana Katsuyama/KTVU) - U.S. Mail trucks in Oakland have been targeted by taggers in recent months, leaving the red, white and blue painted vehicles covered over in graffiti and black letters.
"We have to have those repainted and cleaned," said Jeff Fitch a postal service inspector and spokesman. Fitch says the tagging outside their postal facility on 13th Street increased after the parking lot they were leasing across the street closed and was sold to a developer.
"We'd been renting space there yes to park vehicles and we had fencing up to make it secure," said Fitch.
Now, the mail carriers have had to park mail trucks on the street overnight. Fitch says 40 trucks have been tagged in just the past few months.
"That would be a vehicle out of service for a short time. So anytime a vehicle's out of service, it can't be out making deliveries," said Fitch.
It is a setback of time and money. The postal service is not the only target. Driving through the downtown area, it seems there is graffiti or signs of graffiti cleanup on nearly every building.
"Every single day, it's something," said Oakland native Brett Badelle who is co-owner of the 310 Art Gallery on 14th Street.
"Whether it's a bank, post office, whether it's a school, nobody's safe out here when it comes to graffiti," said Badelle.
He says he appreciates and respects graffiti artwork but not when people deface his storefront. He says he's had to spend thousands of dollars to clean or remove graffiti, which is a big blow to his business.
"They want to sound like they're community based, but if that's the case, why tag an art gallery, why tag a school? Why tag a church? It just doesn't make any sense," said Badelle, "I think that's what the city should really put a little more time and attention into is to try to figure out who these artists are and how we can work with them, because the police are too busy right now to try and chase down graffiti artists."
Fitch says vandalizing a mail truck is a federal crime with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Investigators say there is a $10,000 reward for anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest.