For those fans of McGruff the police dog that takes a bit out of crime, I’m pleased to report that we have our own human version in Sgt. Ed Wheeler who took a bite out of graffiti this week by apprehending and arresting 2 people in River Edge Park who were armed with 20 spray cans worth of paint. It turns out one was a male juvenile from Akron and the other was an adult female student from Kent State. Given the recent spate of graffiti incidents this arrest couldn’t come at a better time.
Knowing my concerns over graffiti, and the difficulty we have catching someone in the act, the Police Chief shared an internal correspondence from Sgt. Wheeler that outlined the events of the arrest. Here it is:
Report from Sgt. Wheeler
Today at 1813 hrs, two subjects were arrested in River Edge Park for spray painting. One male juvenile from Akron and one adult female KSU student were arrested. The female’s arraignment will be on Thursday February 21 in Kent Muni Court. Both were interviewed and confessed to today’s incident. The juvenile stated this was their first offense in Kent, however, they have done this in Akron. The female stated that this was their second time, the first being last week at the same location. They were in possession of two stencil. One was of a male bust speaking the name “FESTER”. The other was of a headless horseman image with the name “FESTER”. (horse with a headless rider) Apparently the juvenile’s tagger name is Fester.
I reviewed criminal damaging and criminal mischief. I went with criminal mischief because the elements fit better. Criminal Mischief is a M3, one degree lower than criminal damaging and the same degree as the Kent Graffiti ordinance. I went with state charges on both just to be consistent. I found criminal tools was a M1 and chose this over the Kent Graffiti Ordinance which makes possessing the graffiti implements a MM which is not even an arrestable offense. Both were charged with littering and the female for contributing to the delinquency.
After speaking with the juvenile’s parents, I left with the impression that they believe we have thrown the book at both of them. The mother was defending her son saying society had portrayed graffiti as art and has made it desirable towards our youth without educating them on the ramifications. The mother pointed out that you can get art books on this matter in the library and on line. The mother was afraid the city was going to make an example out of her son for every one else’s actions.
My comments to the mother was that her son was part of the problem and not the solution. I also asked if her son was spray painting “art” on the side of their home and if he did would he be held responsible. I made the mother fully aware of the ongoing problem in that area and the potential cost to the Kent taxpayers. And it should also be noted that I did not tow the car that their son drove to the park. I told dad where it was and had him take possession of it.
I love art and I admit some graffiti reflects artistic talent but damaging private or public property is not art no matter how good it is. It’s a crime and I thought Sgt. Wheeler did a great job asking the concerned mother whether she allowed her son to spray paint their home. He didn’t report her answer but I think we all know it — of course not. It’s this kind of non-chalant, wink and a nod, look the other way attitude towards graffiti that makes it so hard to stop.
The Police aren’t making an example of this young man and woman — they’re just doing their job enforcing the laws and protecting our property from harm. I’m sure anyone that has had to spend their time and hard earned money to try to clean up graffiti damage are delighted with Sgt. Wheeler’s good work. And so am I.