You’ve probably seen their vivid, uniquely styled works on many a surface in Asheville. They use signature “tags” to mark their work, including ETCHR, LIFE, MOMS and WISDOM. They are the city’s graffiti artists, and if they didn’t know it before, they know now: The Asheville Police Department is on their case.
On Dec. 10, the APD issued a lengthy statement detailing its crackdown on graffiti, which, depending on your perspective, is either a public art form to be proud of or a costly form of property damage. The statement announced two recent arrests for “multiple, separate incidents of graffiti related vandalism” and listed 14 other alleged “prominent graffiti vandals” charged in 2008.
The arrests were the product of an almost year-long APD effort to wipe out graffiti, according to the APD, which says that in 2008, the department has logged 307 cases of “graffiti vandalism.” Investigators believe that to be about half of actual cases, since much graffiti goes unreported to authorities.
The statement shed new light on the extent of the department’s anti-graffiti efforts, reporting that officers have conducted more than 50 surveillance operations and devoted more than 500 hours of investigative time on countering local taggers.
Capt. Tim Splain of the department’s Criminal Investigations Division said that despite the aggressive campaign, “the public perception is that graffiti crime is increasing because this type of vandalism is so visible. We, as a community, need to continue to enforce existing laws, look toward restricting the availability of paints and markers used for graffiti vandalism, and work together toward a comprehensive graffiti removal program.”
The APD released the names, ages and other details about the arrestees, including, in many cases, the specific tags they are alleged to have used. See the full text of the graffiti-arrests summary at mountainx.com/XpressFiles.