The bathroom building at the Wildwood Lake Bathing Beach Park in Northampton was covered in gang graffiti tags and obscenities aimed at the police last week, raising questions as to whether there is gang activity in that area.
The graffiti, reported to police on April 2, contains several graffiti tags of the 18th Street gang, along with writing saying “F— the police.”
On Monday, Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Susan Ralph discussed the incident at the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting.
She said the department is aware of the graffiti and has detectives investigating it.
“We are aware of the gang graffiti, which is known as the 18th Street gang,” Lt. Ralph said. “We have detectives investigating it and if the graffiti continues, I can tell you that we will use all of our investigative techniques. And if we don’t have a form of investigative technique, we will bring in outside agencies to provide us with that.”
Lt. Ralph said they are aware of the 18th Street gang because it recruits in the prison.
“The 18th Street gang is actually aligned with the Mexican Mafia,” she said, adding, “It’s not as prevalent as in other areas of the country, but we do have a small representation.”
She said police have seen some graffiti from MS-13, a violent El Salvadorian gang, in Hampton Bays.
Southold Town police had reported fights between MS-13 and 18th Street gang members in Greenport in 2014, in which three alleged gang members were shot.
FRNCA president Vince Taldone said his organization has asked Southampton Town to put surveillance cameras at the town-owned park, but it has declined to do so.
He said there has been vandalism at the park before, but not gang-related.
“The town will spend $10,000 cleaning up the vandalism, and then they will say they can’t put in cameras,” he said.
Lt. Ralph said the police have limited resources for cameras.
The Southampton Town police now use “intelligence led policing” in which they place police officers in areas that warrant extra patrols, and police work with citizens to get information.
In the Flanders-Riverside-Northampton area, the department has two sector cars as well as the Community Response Unit, and its Community Affairs Officers, meaning there are always eight officers on patrol in that sector.
She said gangs have evolved too over the years, and no longer wear bandanas or clothing that makes them easily identified by police.
The graffiti tags are often a way for a gang to claim it’s territory, and sometimes leads to other gangs painting over it, something Lt. Ralph said hasn’t happened in this instance but likely will.
Asked if the graffiti could be from gangster “wannabes,” Lt. Ralph said there is no such thing.
“Once you identify with a gang, you are now labeled as a gang or gang associate.”
Asked about the fact that the graffiti specifically targeted police, Lt. Ralph said, “they don’t like us. But none of them like us.”
Lt. Ralph urged residents not to try and get involved in removing graffiti themselves, for safety reasons.
“You just call us,” she said.
Photo caption: Gang tags were found all over the bathroom at the Wildwood Lake Bathing Beach Park in Northampton earlier this month, Southampton Town police said. (Credit: Rich Naso)