Arrests made in crackdown on graffiti artists


Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 8:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 8:28 p.m.

A crackdown on graffiti artists — Twig, Eternity, LSD, to name a few — who have left their tags across Gainesville netted two more arrests Tuesday. Police say they are responsible for thousands of dollars worth of damage to private buildings and public structures.

Gainesville police are searching for still more graffiti artists and pledge to continue their effort, which downtown business leaders such as developers Nathan Collier and Ken McGurn have been pressing for.

“We know of about 30 different tags in the past week that we have been able to decipher, and we've put names to about 10 of them,” Lt. Rob Koehler said. “You don't have to be a big investigator to find this stuff. It's all over the place.”

Arrested Tuesday afternoon were Michael Steele, 20, and Charles Delong, 24. They were charged with criminal mischief for tagging on buses and with burglary for tagging walls in an apartment complex. Police said the charges are at the felony level, Officer Jesus Rivera said.

Meanwhile, the tagger known as Meeow is still being sought by police, who said he may be in West Palm Beach now. Meeow had drawn a stylized cat or the word “Meeow” throughout downtown Gainesville.

Several downtown businessmen have called for greater investigation and enforcement of graffiti activity lately.

“Graffiti is NOT a prank, it is a serious property crime that creates very significant economic cost,” apartment complex owner Nathan Collier wrote recently in an email to State Attorney Bill Cervone. “Recently, graffiti has surged and become a DAILY issue at my apt communities, particularly downtown & by UF. I have even had the fence at my HOME tagged! Beyond the direct costs (which are great enough), graffiti contributes to neighborhood deterioration, legitimizes other, further antisocial acts i.e. the cascading ‘broken window' effect.”

Koehler said tagging on traffic signs leads to considerable expense because cleaning the sign would damage the reflective or fluorescent material on it. Instead, the sign must be replaced.

Graffiti on some electrical equipment such as transformer boxes requires specialists to remove because of the potential danger, Koehler added.

Rivera said that it cost $5,000 to $6,000 to clean each of several tour buses that were tagged when they were parked on Southwest 13th Street.

Police last week arrested Lance Miller Corbett, 18, 6223 SW Eighth Place, who identified himself to GPD as the graffiti artist Twig. Corbett was charged with felony criminal mischief.

He is accused of spray-painting words found on the side of three tour buses.

Police called the news media to the detectives' office for a “perp walk” in which Steele and Delong were placed in a squad car.

Instead of being driven to the jail, they were driven around a few blocks and then returned to the office for more questioning. They were eventually taken to the Alachua County jail.

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