GPD hopes to bag the cat behind the 'Meeow' graffiti

The Gainesville Police Department released a surveillance photo of the man they believe is creating cat-related graffiti, like this drawing on a sidewalk near the Hippodrome State Theatre.

Published: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 4:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 4:52 p.m.

The Gainesville Police Department hopes to bag the cat that's tagging buildings, signs and sidewalks with his personal "Meeow."

The department Friday released a surveillance photo of a slim, 6-foot-tall white man with short-cropped dark hair and dark clothes. Officers said they believe he's the artist who has left his mark on many places in and around downtown and along University Avenue.

The surveillance image was recorded at the Sun Center, 101 SE Second Place, early Sunday morning. Police say the man did $1,000 worth of damage with his black and blue markers at the Sun Center building and Hippodrome Theatre. His graffiti — sometimes a curvy image of a cat or the word "Meeow" or both — is on the sidewalk there and on a door, meter box and trash bin.

Law enforcement and beautification officials seized the opportunity Friday to ask for the public's help in combating graffiti.

"We just want to get the word out and make people understand there's consequences if you get caught," said State Attorney's Office spokesman Spencer Mann. The graffiti has shown up on the prosecutor's office downtown.

On Tuesday morning, Mann said, an office worker found the glass windows along one side of the State Attorney's Office tagged with largely illegible white graffiti. Mann said he spent an hour scraping that off with razor blades. It was easier, he said, than when the graffiti is on the brick corners of the building or its painted areas.

"We want people to observe and report it," Mann said. "If they see it, (police) want people to call in and let them know."

He said sometimes the tags are gang-related and sometimes not. Mann said he has noticed an increase in "erotic" drawings.

Because the vandalism is generally a misdemeanor, police officers must see the crime occurring to make an immediate arrest. Otherwise, Mann said, they can build a case for a sworn complaint.

Mickie MacKenzie, executive director of Keep Alachua County Beautiful, said she has seen an increase in graffiti.

"It waxes and wanes," she said, but it's gotten worse in recent months. Her not-for-profit agency — which has a $55,000 contract with the city that includes graffiti abatement — has increased its staff time devoted to cleaning up the vandalism.

MacKenzie said the agency's effort requires a lot of work in the office, too, as it finds the building owners and gets their permission to remove the graffiti. Her agency cuts costs by using recycled paint.

The agency's work includes clearing obscenities and other inappropriate graffiti form the 34th Street Wall, which employees have to do about three times a week, she said. "We'll go out and clean a surface, and 24 hours later the tag will be back on it. … There are buildings we've done three, four, six times."

MacKenzie said she has seen the "Meeow" tag for some time and in many places.

" ‘Ghost' is another one that's plagued us … just a tag of the word ‘Ghost,' " she said.

GPD spokeswoman Cpl. Angelina Valuri said anyone with information about the graffiti artists should call Crime Stoppers at 372-STOP.

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