Jun 282005
Authors: Sara Crocker

While the snows from winter have melted and washed away some of the city grit and grime, much of the paint from the graffiti spree during December and January still remains.

But now, Fort Collins police have named suspects in the case, and they hope to finally identify 'Sam,' the tagger whose name still can be seen throughout the city.

Fort Collins Police Services Officer Matt Johnson said there are three groups he thinks are involved with the tagging: Suburban Hip Hop Posse, Denver Vandals Squad and local hip hop group, The Few.

Johnson said he thinks the name Sam comes from "Uncle Sam Sense," the stage name of a member of The Few, who Johnson would only identify as Trevor. The other tagger Johnson thinks is a part of The Few uses the name "Cirius."

Johnson said Cirius has not been as destructive as Sam, causing less than $2,000 of damage. Fort Collins resident Andrew Vaeth, 26, has been arrested in connection with the case.

Johnson said they were able to narrow down the suspects after an article about the graffiti ran in the Fort Collins Weekly in February.

"After the article ran people began to come out of the woodwork," Johnson said. "We had some informants come forward."

Because of these sources, Johnson said they were able to obtain a search warrant for Vaeth's residence, and then issued an arrest warrant in May.

Vaeth spoke out in another Weekly article on June 8, claiming that he was not behind the Cirius tags.

"I'm a lyricist first and foremost," Vaeth said. "I'm not even really a graffiti artist."

He said that he felt slandered by the Weekly article and would not disclose his trial date. Also, he said he wasn't interested in explaining his story to anyone who didn't understand the hip hop culture.

"There's a lot of people who have no idea what it's like to be a hip hopper," Vaeth said.

Johnson said the penalty for the Cirius tags could be up to 6 years in prison and compensation to the owners of the properties that were damaged.

But, Vaeth and Cirius are not the main focus of the case.

"Sam was much more prolific," Johnson said of the tags that are related to over 100 reports. "(He) probably had damages over $100,000."

Vaeth's arrest still brings up the question of whether or not graffiti is art or vandalism.

"I think it's an individual person's expression, so yeah, it can be considered art," said Andrea Martens, a graduate art student.

But others disagree. Ken Moore, who owns Nelsen's Auto Tech Center, 361 1/2 E. Mountain Ave., looks at a Cirius tag that faces his garage in the alley across the street.

Moore said his building has been tagged in the past and estimated it happening about once a year.

"I don't think it's art; I think it's intrusion on people's private property," he said. "I hate to see the town get disfigured like that."

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