A similar type of graffiti has been found in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Stillwater, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Detroit, leading police to look into whether some of the same people may be responsible for the vandalism.
The Oklahoma City police’s graffiti unit is investigating three people caught “tagging” a building in northeast Oklahoma City on Nov. 30.
Officers arrested Hillary Elaine Gaby, 24, of Edmond; Victor Alexis Reyes, 29, of Chicago, and Paul Yeakey, 26, of Broken Arrow, on misdemeanor complaints. Officers found 94 cans of spray paint.
“Taggers,” unlike gang vandals, are drawn to the excitement of being almost caught and to the notoriety, Graffiti Investigations Unit Detective Sgt. Brad Harper said Monday. Gang vandals typically paint graffiti to scare other gangs away from the gang’s turf. About 80 percent of the graffiti found in Oklahoma City is made by “taggers,” while about 20 percent is gang-related, Harper said.
Graffiti Investigations Unit detectives found that the “tags” in Oklahoma City matched graffiti in a number of other cities, police Capt. Dexter Nelson said.
“The traveling ‘taggers’ will meet up typically via social media and stay with a local ‘tagger’ of the town they are going to visit. Typically you’ll have the ‘taggers’ that go from here to another city and then you’ll see all three of their tags together and then they loosely associate to a ‘crew,’” Harper said. “They will go out into another city and meet up with another individual or individuals and then they will go out and locate, recon.”
Search warrants were issued in Stillwater and the Tulsa area. Yeakey was arrested March 2 while Tulsa police officers were issuing the search warrant. They found 36 pounds of marijuana, $15,523 in drug proceeds and more than 350 spray paint cans, Nelson said.
Yeakey was arrested on complaints of trafficking a controlled and dangerous substance, possession and/or receiving drug proceeds, according to the Tulsa County jail’s inmate information.
The Oklahoma City police’s graffiti unit was put together in July 2009.
The unit has arrested 229 “taggers,” 1,500 charges have been filed and the city has asked for $330,000 in restitution. Oklahoma City’s graffiti unit is one of the few in the country.
“You can see these people are obsessed with the graffiti lifestyle and are obsessed with getting that notoriety with their names,” he said. “They want to show that they have artistic ability in the public and other artists recognize that and give them kudos. It’s a snowball effect; ‘the more I do, the more recognition I can get.’”
While most of the charges filed against vandals have been misdemeanor charges, some were felonies.
Graffiti art can be felony complaints when the damage amounts to more than $1,000 or if graffiti was painted on a house of worship.