Vandals cover Lawton's old Fairmont Creamery with a huge tag

LAWTON-- Graffiti vandals have reached an all-time low in Lawton. They've been targeting the historic Fairmont Creamery for years, but now they've painted over the building's landmark sign. The owner of the property says it likely happened late at night last weekend. It's the latest in a string of "big time" targets, which includes a billboard covered with graffiti on I-44 just south of the Lee Boulevard exit. It made us wonder, how can something so elaborate happen with nobody seeing who's doing it?

Police aren't really sure. They don't think it's gang-related, but it's likely a gang of vandals. The Fairmont tag was not an easy project. Whoever did it, had to either hang off the side of the building or they possibly used a roller with a long extension. Either way, it's causing a headache for the property owner as well as many others around town.

"It's a shame, we can't keep up with it," said Derek Pever, the owner of the Fairmont. He's been dealing with taggers, and so-called "graffiti artists" for years. Now, he says they're out of control. "This area down here has really started taking a hit within the last three to four months."

It's easy to understand why. Most of the industrial park packs up and leaves before sundown, and it's almost completely abandoned on the weekends. "You can go out and try and clean the graffiti up one night after you get off working all day. Within the next day or two, someone else will come in and find a nice clean canvas to destroy," said Pever.

To sum it up, he says if they can cover a billboard on a busy highway, they can strike pretty much anywhere, including Robert Ryan's moving company. "One of our buildings has gotten quite a bit. They've hit some of our trucks. We've had over $7,000 worth of damage to our vehicles alone just getting graffiti back off them," said Ryan.

What'sworse, Ryan's business is next to Kirk's Ambulance Service, which is staffed around the clock. Even they've been targeted by graffiti in the past. You would think someone would see something. "Just call it in, you don't have to give your name or anything, but at least let police be aware that something is going on and they can drive by and see what's happening," said Ryan.

Police say they're determined to get to the bottom of the graffiti vandalism. They say they do consider it a high priority, especially since it's giving the city's image a black eye.

Not only are graffiti victims having to deal with the mess the vandals create, they also have to hear from the city's neighborhood services department. It's making sure the property owners clean up the tags, even though they're the victims of vandalism, most likely committed by kids.

"They're criminals, true criminals committing a criminal act--defacing private and public property," said Tony Griffin, neighborhood services supervisor. "We have no other option since we weren't there to see who did it, but to hold the title holder responsible for correcting it."

Griffin says most property owners are more than willing to clean the tags up right away. They could be fined if they don't.