EVERETT — On a dewy Friday morning, the Cascade Boys & Girls Club carried on business as usual, prepared to help kids with homework, do arts and crafts or just hang out.
On the outside, however, suspected gang signs had been spray painted on the walls of the after-school club.
Neighbors said it is the latest incident this year of tagging at the Boys & Girls Club building, located next to Lions Park. Excessive graffiti and loitering are common in the neighborhood, as well as gunfire sometimes, they said.
Forrest Kraske, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years, said he has had to repaint his fence at least once a week in the last year to cover tagging.
“It used to be a really quiet park,” Kraske said. “It’s gotten busier, which is cool. But probably in the last five or six years, the graffiti has really taken off. In the first 10 years I lived here, I probably had to paint my fence over twice.”
Lions Park, located in the 7000 block of Cascade Drive, spans over 3 acres, and includes a vast grass field, a playground and basketball courts. Trees, parking signs and fences around the neighborhood are brushed over with countless layers of paint to cover the same symbols tagged on the clubhouse.
The Boys & Girls Club was also tagged with the same symbols in April, but was covered up within days.
“It is very unfortunate that the Club was tagged again this week,” local Boys & Girls Club Chief Operating Officer Marci Volmer wrote in an email Friday. “We will continue to work closely with the Everett Police and our neighborhood in the area to ensure the safety of the kids and the community.”
The tagging, however, is only one aspect of what neighbors suspect is gang activity. While usually quiet during the day, it’s a different story when the sun goes down.
“If you look at the park, they actually go up and drive around in there,” Kraske said, pointing across the street. “There’s a few times where they are firing guns into the air and driving off.”
Inna Khomyak has lived near the park for four years with her young children. Earlier this month, she heard what she thought were fireworks, but turned down her blinds to see flashes across the street. Her husband suspected they were gunshots.
That night, all their kids slept in their parents’ room, Khomyak said.
“They are all really little, so I would love it if they could just go to the park by themselves — which they ask all the time,” Khomyak said. “If we could move we would, but everything is really expensive right now.”
A spokesperson for Everett police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on crime along Cascade Drive.
Some neighbors concerned with the gun violence referenced the recent shooting deaths of 15-year-old Bryan Tomayo-Franco on Hardeson Road in September; 18-year-old Isaac Aney down the street on East Casino Road in October; and 17-year-old Cesar Sanchez at Jackson Park this week.
As of Friday, the Boys & Girls Club had not removed the gang tags. It was raining for much of the day, making it trickier to paint over the tags. Volmer said the club was looking into “preventative measures,” but did not specify what those were.