An east Anchorage neighborhood near Russian Jack Springs Park is plagued with gang-related graffiti. Spray-painted symbols and words related to the Crips, Bloods and other gangs line a number of fences near the intersection of Reka Drive and Bragaw Street.

“Graffiti is the first sign that you’ve got an issue in your neighborhood,” said Scott Lofthouse, a retired Anchorage police officer who worked closely with the special assignments unit, which is now defunct but was partially dedicated to tackling gang-related crime. Lofthouse noticed the graffiti while picking up his daughter from soccer practice. “It can promote gang warfare, promote violence. We just don’t really know right now who is involved in this.”

The fence with the most graffiti is in an alleyway adjacent to a residential area. People who live there said it has been there for several months, but it has gotten particularly bad during recent weeks.

“It can irritate people and I don’t think it’s safe for people showing that kind of stuff,” said Jyasia Batts.

One man said he called police and the municipality about cleaning up the graffiti, but had not heard back from anyone.

“I want it covered up. I’ll paint it myself. I don’t care,” said David Crownhart, who has lived in the neighborhood for 18 years. “That’s just an invitation for more trouble.”

The Anchorage Police Department said it has officers involved with the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, which focuses on gang- and drug-related violence. The department said the officers work undercover, and therefore could not be interviewed. A spokesperson for the FBI said no one was available to speak on the topic.

Lofthouse said law enforcement agencies need to take a more proactive approach to ensure gangs do not become more of a problem.

“Gang intelligence is the very first thing they should be doing,” he said.

Specifically, Lofthouse said educating people of all ages on the dangers of gang violence and dedicating more resources to finding gangs’ roots are the best ways to tackle the issue.

“That’s how you’re going to be able to solve the problem,” he said. “Go directly to them and talk to them.”

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.