October 31, 1996 in Washington Voices

Cops Volunteers Key To Catching Suspects

Jonathan Martin Staff Writer
 

Good sleuthing by Northwest COPS volunteers led to the arrest of five teenagers suspected of a participating in a $15,000 graffiti spree.

Spokane police officer Sue Mann arrested the youths last Thursday after tracing them from the nicknames they spray painted on more than 45 North Side houses and garages.

The suspects are 15 and 16 years old. One is a student at Shadle Park High, but the others are drop-outs, Mann said.

They youths have been charged with felony malicious mischief.

“They’re pretty proud of what they did,” said Mann.

So are the members of the COPS substation graffiti team. Those volunteers took more than 45 graffiti complaints this year, but 31 came in mid-October. The volunteers wrote reports and took pictures of each complaint.

Patterns began to emerge. Styles and nicknames were consistent, including “Jester” and “Bozo”.

“Typically (graffiti) is used as a communication port between gangs,” said Mann. “This looks like nothing but pure malicious mischief.”

The volunteers brought their analysis to Mann, who, with the help of the Spokane police gang unit, identified the youths by their nicknames.

“It was just a matter of interviewing the kids,” said Mann.

The youths caused more than $1,000 damage to each of at least six homes. Homeowners must pay cleanup costs, and the city requires graffiti to be removed within a day.

The graffiti is centered in the Shadle area, but the youths strayed as far north as Linwood Elementary and as far south as Broadway Avenue.

“Peace to all taggers,” they wrote on the side of one 82-year-old woman’s garage, referring to the slang word for graffiti artists.

The homeowner is waiting for a contractor to replace the ruined vinyl siding on her garage. The cost is estimated at $585.

“I’ve lived in here 46 years,” said the resident of the Audubon Park neighborhood. “This is the first time I’ve been scared. It about did me in, up all night, worrying.”

The woman said she’ll find the money, but expensive surprises are tough on a fixed income.

“Why do they do this? They don’t know what it makes us feel like,” she said.

, DataTimes


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