Black-painted graffiti covered Andrew Love's white garage door Friday, Jan. 27. He was one of five residents of the Oaktree community in Sterling Park to deal with the vandalism.
They were not alone. The vandals also struck at the Rolling Ridge neighborhood, about a five-minute drive from there between Jan. 26 and Jan. 30, said Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office. A week ago Tuesday, a businessman, whom police would not identify, found the back of his Holly Avenue businesses covered with graffiti. Authorities said they are not sure if the vandalism is gang-related or a copy-cat crime. The latter crime would mean that people who are not of gang members are the graffiti painters.
LOVE, WHO LIVES on Juniper Avenue, said he was in a hurry to remove the paint, because he didn't want his children to see it. "I didn't want them to be afraid of their neighborhood," he said.
Residents found graffiti on three cars, two garage doors, the community's Oaktree sign and the pool house, said Kristan Pappano, vice president of the homeowner's association. Troxell said graffiti was found on Juniper Avenue, Gordon Street, Circle Drive and Argonne Avenue.
Terri Shalap, who has lived in the area for 14 years and whose home is near the pool house, said she does not understand why people commit the crime. More and more young people are joining gangs, she said.
"There is no longer a sense of family anymore. Everybody is so busy."
Pappano agreed. "TheyÕre just kids who are lost souls with no parental supervision. They are looking for other people to accept them. Usually it's the gangs, which are going to lead them down the wrong path."
"I think Sterling Park has gone downhill quite a bit in the last five years," Shalap said.
MIKALA MCCARTHY had parked her car near the Rolling Ridge neighborhood mail boxes on Calamary Circle. She usually parks in front of her condominium, but she was away on a Caribbean cruise. She said she thought the vehicle would be safer where there was a lot of mail activity.
She came home to find her car covered with graffiti. "It was some kind of gang symbols. It's time to move," said McCarthy, who has lived in Rolling Ridge four years. "It's sad to see it come to that. It was kind of the push. It's unfortunate."
She said she planned to ask the homeowner's association to install a light post at the mailboxes. "It was probably gangs. There aren't too many people going out doing random graffiti and gangs have gotten more prevalent lately in the past five years."
Mike Elgaen, a neighbor, said the crime doesn't make him afraid to walk the dog at night. It's an immature act, he said. "Why would you want to call attention to yourself like that?"
Vandals also struck Marigold Circle, located across from Calamary, Troxell said.
Chris Ferrell, vice president of the Rolling Ridge condominium association, said the group convened a meeting and decided to step up its Neighborhood Watch campaign. It planned to contact the Sheriff's Office to increase patrols on the streets. "We're 100 percent, completely concerned about it," he said. "We're trying to make it safer."
PAPPANO SAID the Oaktree's newsletter is going out with information about the Gang Response and Intervention Team (GRIT). At the annual meeting April 20, the homeowner's association plans to have a representative of GRIT or Neighborhood Watch speak. "We'll see if there is interest in volunteers starting it [Neighborhood Watch]," she said. "It is disappointing that this comes into a neighborhood."