NEW ORLEANS - Along Broad Street in Mid City, you'll spot new businesses and neighborhood improvements, thanks to community groups working to revitalize the area.
But Monday morning, neighbors and business owners awoke to find something else: graffiti defacing nearly one dozen businesses, including Crescent City Steaks, H&R Block, Tastee Donuts, SpeeDee Oil Change and Lava Supermarket and Deli.
“I spent a lot of money putting this place together and I'm not going to allow people like that to come and defame my property,” said Abd Ghaith, who opened Lava Supermarket just nine months ago.
“I'm in here 18 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.
Police release two surveillance videos showing the suspects.
And as Ghaith celebrated his wedding Sunday night, his business surveillance cameras captured the vandals on tape.
The video shows three young men, all with baseball caps and two with skateboards are involved. A young man with dark hair scoped out the place just after 10:15 p.m. Sunday. Minutes later, he comes back with another young man, and the two spray paint the building's wall.
Soon after, another camera shows one of the vandals tagging a different part of the building, before all three men walk away.
The trio spray painted the words “Meech” and “Raw” repeatedly on multiple buildings in a half mile stretch of N. Broad Street, from St. Philip to Bayou Road.
Ghaith believes he recognizes one of the culprits.
“I think he came in here a couple of weeks ago and asked if I sold spray paint actually,” said Ghaith.
Employees tried to clean up the graffiti Monday evening outside SpeeDee Oil Change on Esplanade Avenue.
Ultimately, the owner says he may have to repaint the entire building, noting it was the first time vandals hit his building since he moved in seven years ago.
“It looks bad for the whole neighborhood,” said Jeffrey Detlie, a SpeeDee Oil Change technician.
And as business owners are forced to pay for clean up, community advocates say graffiti can bring down a neighborhood.
“If the graffiti doesn't get painted over or is left there, it might signify to somebody that, ‘Hey, this business owner isn't really here, doesn't really care,’ and it might lead to people hanging out and doing something else that might be a little worse, and then it kind of just snowballs,” said Jeff Schwartz, executive director of Broad Community Connections, a neighborhood group that is working to revitalize N. Broad Street.
“Things like this it makes people who are looking to move in here not want to move in here,” said Ghaith. “At the end of the day, it hurts everybody. It's not just me. It hurts all the businesses in the area.”
Schwartz said the graffiti fuels the effort to install crime cameras in the neighborhood. He said it is a speed bump in the efforts to revitalize the neighborhood, which include a tree planting campaign and the opening of a Whole Foods, a life-skills training program for at-risk youth and a medical teaching kitchen.
Now, neighbors hope the vandals are captured before it happens again.
Police say they don’t believe the graffiti is gang related.
If you have any information that could help police, call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.