Local News


CONTACT 13: Federal office ignores graffiti

Posted at 10:47 PM, Apr 15, 2016

In a story that's only on 13 action news, a federal crime happening inside a federal facility and no one is doing anything about it.

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears exposes the government agency ignoring the writing on the wall.
It's being called despicable, a disgrace, and it's happening on federal property.

"When I went in, I was actually dumbfounded."

Travis Knapp went to the Social Security office on Buffalo near Charleston because of one crime.

"My son's social got stolen."

But while there, he saw evidence of another. 

The scene? The men's restroom.  

"It was completely covered in graffiti. The mirror just completely etched into. The walls--the stall walls and everything." 

Darcy Spears: Is this one of the last places you would expect to see that kind of vandalism?
Travis: In a federal building?  Yes!
Darcy: This crime is taking place right under their noses...
Travis: Exactly. It's right there and it makes no sense to me how they can just let it go.

Travis took to social media, posting the pictures in a native Nevadan Facebook group he belongs to.

"I've had an out-pour of people who are upset by seeing it. I didn't know where to turn, and that's how I got with you."

He brought the story to us after trying to report the abuse to a Social Security agent in the Buffalo office.

"As a taxpayer, we pay for buildings like this. And when I mentioned the pictures, the gentleman behind the glass actually looked at me and he was like, "If you don't delete those pictures I will call Metro on you because it's a federal offense to take pictures in a federal building."

It's a federal offense to deface a federal building. And against state law, too. But the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says no one from the Social Security office has reported the crime. 

Police have a special graffiti investigation unit to tackle what they call the most costly property crime in southern Nevada--with a high success rate of identifying and arresting graffiti vandals. 

In fact, Nevada has the toughest graffiti laws in the nation. 

But Social Security hasn't said a word.

"You get caught, you go to prison," said Travis. "But tagging a federal building apparently to them is okay."

It wouldn't be okay with police and it's not okay with Travis, who called to speak to a supervisor and got transferred to someone out of state.

"And they said, 'oh, well, you can mail the manager of the building a letter and they'll take care of it as they see fit.' "

A few days after Travis documented the vandalism and brought it to authorities' attention, we went back to check on whether anything was different.

Using our iPhone, we went in and found nothing has changed.

Images taken this afternoon show the extent of the destruction. 

Under federal law, it's a pretty big deal. 

United States Code says property damage over $100 carries a fine of up to $250-thousand, ten years in prison, or both. 

Travis believes there's another crime going on here--apathy.

"If there's something going on in your line of work, be it graffiti or somebody stealing from your company, and you're sitting there watching it and you don't report it to a higher-up to have it taken care of, you're just as much a part of the problem as the person doing so."

We sent all the photos to the regional Social Security office in San Francisco. 

They also asked us to email our questions, but didn't answer any of them. 

They declined our request for an interview, saying they're looking into the vandalism concerns and what actions may be taken for resolution.