May 5, 1995 in Idaho

Teens Face Charges For Graffiti Six Youths Are The Largest Group Of ‘Taggers’ Caught By Sheriff’s Department

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A group of Coeur d’Alene teens have left their mark on Kootenai County.

With spray paint.

Police say the six youths have spent the last few months scrawling code names on businesses, bridges and any other flat surfaces they could find.

Now, they’re facing criminal charges for their art work.

It’s the largest group of “taggers” the Kootenai County authorities have caught and sought charges against, said sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger.

Taggers are youths or groups of youths who habitually spray paint graffiti. They “tag” an area, marking it with a name or words specific to their group.

“Taggers are basically starving student artists,” Sgt. Paul Middlemore said. “It’s an identity crisis I guess.”

Starting in March, an increasing amount of graffiti began cropping up around the county, Middlemore said. Officers noticed that many of the same words and letters kept reappearing - especially the letters TNT.

Black painted “TNT” appeared on numerous restrooms and walls. Code names like “Carnage” appeared on an overpasses and water tanks. The windows on the Hecla Mining office were vandalized.

“It’s rather unattractive,” said Charlotte O’Clair, administrative coordinator for Columbia Lighting. A new coat of paint had just been slapped on their building when the taggers left their markings.

Middlemore believes the youths hit up to 20 locations.

An Idaho State Police officer and a city police officer caught some of the youths, said Coeur d’Alene Police Capt. Carl Bergh. Those youths identified others.

The six teens involved in the latest slew of graffiti range from 14 to 17 years old, Middlemore said. They’re responsible for about 80 percent of the sheriff’s graffiti cases, he said.

“They said they did it because it gave them an adrenaline rush,” Capt. Bergh said.

None of the youths had a prior criminal record.

Bergh said the ringleader had moved here from Nevada and apparently brought the idea with him.

“My son didn’t even know what tagging was,” said the father of one youth. He said his son was unwittingly duped into driving the others to a tagging spot.

One of the youths is facing up to eight charges of malicious injury to property, another is facing seven, Middlemore said.

Authorities say taggers pose a problem because they go out repeatedly to damage other people’s property.


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