Tag Houston, you're hit with graffiti

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Some say it's the worst in this area in years with taggers on the roads as much as motorists.

The Mayor's Anti Gang Office and Gang Task Force confirms that there really has been an uptick in the graffiti in Houston, but it's not gang graffiti. Instead, it's street artists trying to make a name for themselves.

"They chose a nice spot, a spot near the freeway where the visibility is good and they did it big," said photographer Marco Torres.

Torres is a photographer who focuses on urban culture on his Web site.

"I myself can't do this art, and that's why I document it because I love it," he said.

We met up with Torres where the Southwest Freeway meets the West Loop. It's hard to miss some graffiti that went up over the holidays there.

"These particular items are graffiti by two individuals," said Torres. "The first one is Nekst and the next one is Abels, they're Houston-based."

And Nekst apparently lives out of town now and took some time out to tag while visiting family for the holidays. But there is no real reason for the increase in graffiti according to both Torres and the Mayor's Anti Gang Office and Gang Task Force. It's not gang-related, but put up by so-called taggers.

"They promote themselves as taggers first, their crew second," said Victor Gonzales of the office. "They're more about getting their names up, that's how you gain recognition or status in that sub culture."

And the more visible the better.

"It doesn't matter if you like it or not, it only matters that it's visible," Torres added. "That you see it and it's there, it's part of the city."

So while the city of Houston dedicated $2.25 million in 2006 to removing graffiti and helping private property owners get rid of it too, it's a problem that probably won't go away.

"It's just an uptick right now and I'm happy ya know," said Torres.

The Mayor's Anti Gang Office and Gang Task Force keeps an eye on tagger graffiti, citing occasional violence. Because it isn't a gang issue, it is most often dealt with by the Houston Police Department's neighborhood protection guys. If you have a problem with graffiti, most local substations have someone you can talk to.

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