Mar 032005
Authors: Sara Crocker

When Will Hickey looked out his window and saw a group of kids standing around in a parking lot behind his house, he didn't think anything of it. However, he became skeptical when he saw graffiti not only on his fence, but also on the pavement in the front and the mailbox down the street.

"I'm assuming they did it," Hickey, a senior biological science major, said. "It's pretty bad; it's not artistic at all."

Hickey, who lives on north Meldrum Street, said the graffiti was scrawling and he thought it looked like they were trying to mimic gang signs. He said one of the few things he could make out was the word north.

"Strangely it's on the south side of the parking lot," Hickey said.

Hickey said that the graffiti from on his fence remains, but black has been painted over the tags on the pavement in front.

Fort Collins Police Services Dist. 1 Sgt. Francis Gonzales said there is a rise of graffiti incidents around this time of year because of the warm weather, since most tagging takes place at night. But, FCPS also attributes times when kids are off from school and serial taggers to the increases.

FCPS received 50 reports of graffiti in December and 26 in January. This in part has been attributed to a tagger named "Sam." Sam has left his mark around the city, more than 10, but less than 100 times according to Gonzales. According to FCPS the primary areas that have been tagged by Sam are around the north Laurel Street and the Campus West area.

He said it is hard to estimate because some residents remove the graffiti on their own and never report it to police. FCPS also said it is impossible to estimate the amount of property damaged because of this.

"Little is known about who this person or group of individuals is," Gonzales said.

FCPS said they have not heard about his tag since January, but are still searching for him.

"The Sam caper's been hot for us," Gonzales said.

Taggers leave their namesake on any flat surface, he said. There is a difference between these people and graffiti artists, who paint larger murals as a form of artistic expression. Gonzales said these two groups usually clash.

"(Graffiti artists) think taggers are just malicious guys with paint cans," Gonzales said.

But, he said FCPS officers generally encounter more tagging than graffiti art around the city. He said they see tags with spray paint as well as with markers. The police encounter a lot of this graffiti in Old Town where there are plenty of alleyways and rooftops to tag.

While graffiti can be gang-related, Gonzales said they mainly encounter it when gang activity increases.

Gonzales said from his experience, the average tagger is a 15- to 26-year-old male.

He said it is hard to catch these taggers.

"They're doing this stuff at night," Gonzales said. "It's really hard for us to catch up with them and it's typically by accident."

For those who are caught, graffiti is charged as criminal mischief. It can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the amount of property damaged. Any damage over $500 is a felony, according to FCPS.

To report graffiti and have it removed, call the graffiti hotline at 491-2400.

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