By AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Some terrorized neighbors on Iowa Avenue Northwest are afraid to speak out against a family who they say have taken over the neighborhood.
The most recent target was a vacant house at 178 Iowa Ave. N.W., between West Market and McMyler streets. It's owned by Sunshine Inc., a nonprofit outfit that builds affordable housing in the community.
The house was covered in graffiti in the last few weeks, but Tuesday, it was painted over by a city crew.
Neighbors say they're glad the obscenities were covered, but they doubt this will be the last time they see such acts of criminal damaging in their neighborhood.
Those responsible: People living near the house say they know who's causing the trouble -- a household of relatives who live on the street, some under 18, at least one older.
Two Iowa Avenue residents familiar with the destruction did not want to be identified because of possible retaliation.
"They're nothing but troublemakers," one man said.
He's lived on Iowa Street five years. He said he's moving, in part because of the deterioration of the neighborhood and for other personal reasons.
Another man who has lived on Iowa since 1964 remembers it as a working-class neighborhood of families.
"It's going down hill every day," he said.
Disgusted: One neighbor who doesn't mind being identified is Giva Gardner, who lives in her sister's house not far from the Sunshine home she said was vacated in the last year, leaving the property open to vandals and other criminals.
Her sister's house hasn't been targeted, but Gardner said juveniles spray-paint the sidewalks up and down the street.
"We're really disgusted about it," Gardner said. "We're really upset with this neighborhood."
Neighbors say unkempt rental properties spurred the continuing decline of the neighborhood.
Gardner has lived on Iowa Street 15 years and has watched her sister's property value plummet.
The vandals have no respect for themselves or others, she said.
Bob Pinti, deputy health commissioner, said some of the group of relatives have spray-painted their own home with graffiti.
Policy: Mayor Hank Angelo said the city's unofficial policy on graffiti is to paint over it as soon as possible, with the property owner's permission.
If consent is not given, Angelo said the property owner is told he or she has 72 hours to do so.
Pinti said damage to the Sunshine home is at least $20,000.
The group responsible for the damage has been "a standing problem in that neighborhood for many years," Pinti said, adding, "They're graffiti maniacs."
Warrants: Municipal Judge Thomas Gysegem said there are warrants out for the arrest of Scott Langham, 18, of 168 Iowa Ave. N.W.
The judge said Langham pleaded innocent May 29 to two misdemeanor charges of criminal damaging relating to the Sunshine home.
Tim Yova, Sunshine director, filed one complaint against Langham and a neighbor filed the other.
Langham failed to appear for a court hearing June 28 and city police issued warrants.
The judge said Langham also owes the court a $394 fine on an unrelated burglary charge.
Sunshine officials earlier this week characterized the inside of its Iowa Avenue home as "utter destruction," with windows knocked out, walls torn down, obscenities scrawled on the wall, carpeting ripped up, a toilet pulled from the wall and sections of floor missing.
Officials say they'll likely restore the home because tearing it down would not be in line with Sunshine's mission to revitalize neighborhoods and provide affordable housing.
Sunshine has charged Langham for damage to its property, but more individuals could be prosecuted for their role in neighborhood-wide destruction, officials said.