Vikki Vargas, Kevin Dahlgren
A community is on the lookout for vandals who left their mark all over vehicles and homes in Costa Mesa. While most of the damage was done with spray paint, some of the damage was worse than others. Vikki Vargas reports from Costa Mesa for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014.
A slew of mysterious vandalism incidents hit an Orange County neighborhood over the weekend, and authorities are asking for the public’s help to track down whoever tagged dozens of cars and spray painted light fixtures at an apartment complex.
Costa Mesa Police are investigating 26 reports of car and property vandalism that occurred in a parking garage, as well as six similar cases -- including an arson -- reported on nearby residential streets (map).
Police responded to a vehicle fire at a house in the 3400 block of Venetian Drive about 4 a.m. Sunday. The house's garage was tagged with a note reading "ha ha," said Lt. Mark Manley, of Costa Mesa Police.
The family told NBC4 the car alarm of the 2013 Toyota Camry woke them up before they saw flames outside, and police said that incident is considered felony vandalism.
"I wake up and though, 'What happened? The car is burning,'" Tony Villagomez told NBC4. "(The vandals) were laughing, like enjoying what they did."
Afterward, dozens of other reports regarding car graffiti in the 1000 blocks of South Coast Drive and Begonia Avenue began raining in, Manley said. As of now, there is no indication of any connection between the two set of crimes, he added.
"It's just so frustrating that we live in a world where they tag and they destroy other people's property. They don't have any respect for it and it's just very frustrating," said Laurie Lusk, whose three cars were painted with black stripes.
Police are on the look-out for the vandals and are investigating both cases.
A majority of the car taggings occurred in the parking garage of The Cape at Metro Pointe, an apartment complex on South Coast Drive, Manley said. Vandals marked 26 cars inside the garage with lines of black spray-paint. Five other vehicles were painted on adjacent residential street Begonia Avenue.
Manley said at least one vehicle had the word “hi” written on it, and another had a smiley face. Three light fixtures were also vandalized.
Set in the "stylish" area of South Coast Metro, according to The Cape’s website, the luxury apartments are situated north of the 405 Freeway. The complex has gates, prompting authorities to believe the vandals could have either lived there or sneaked inside.
The area surrounding The Cape is not an area that usually generates a lot of crime reports, Manley said. In fact, he said he was unaware of any recent incidents.
Detectives are investigating each report of vandalism as its own crime and are looking for any potential video that could come forward.
No one has been arrested, but police found a can of paint at the apartment complex and another left behind at the scene of the arson.
"The spray paint on that was left on some of the cars curiously is removable so we're looking into that," Costa Mesa Police Lt. Greg Scott said.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Costa Mesa Police Department, or to visit its online crime reporting website.