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Middletown police arrest graffiti 'artist'
Published: Tuesday, July 26, 2011; Last Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 10:27 PM EDT
By CLAIRE MICHALEWICZ
MIDDLETOWN — After a year-long investigation, Middletown police have arrested a graffiti artist who has been plaguing the downtown area with spray paint.
Lt. Heather Desmond and Lt. Gary Wallace announced the suspect’s arrest at a press conference Monday. They said the suspect is now 18 but is being tried as a juvenile offender because he was 17 when he allegedly did the graffiti. Because of his juvenile status, police didn’t release his name or address, though they did say that he lives outside Middletown.
The investigation started a year ago, Wallace said, after graffiti was found on several downtown businesses.
“It was a pretty lengthy investigation,” Desmond said. “It affected a lot of the community.”
Wallace said the graffiti didn’t appear to be gang-related, and didn’t contain any offensive or threatening message. Rather, he said, the police pursued the suspect because the graffiti was so widespread and had impacted businesses throughout the city. He said much of the graffiti consisted of initials and other designs which were repeated over and over throughout the city.
“We were pretty much plagued with it,” Wallace said.
Wallace said the graffiti had an effect on the owners of the vandalized property, who had to assess the damage and arrange to have it repaired. In addition, he said, it made the downtown area less attractive.
“So this was a big problem for us,” he said.
Throughout the investigation, police worked with New Britain police, who had noticed similar graffiti. Police also enlisted the help of the Downtown Business District and the guides that offer information about downtown. Wallace said police had the guides submit photos of any graffiti they found.
Over the course of the investigation, Wallace said, police discovered a website where an artist had posted images of the graffiti like that in Middletown and New Britain. After finding out who owned the website, police were able to match the photos with a name and address. The police obtained a search warrant from a judge and visited the suspect’s home.
“All the evidence that we’re seeing in the downtown area is located at the person’s residence, along with spray cans, nozzles — the type of things that graffiti, uh, artists, will normally carry,” Wallace said.
Some of the graffiti is still visible on a railroad bridge on High Street, south of Erin Street, Wallace said, while more was found on a wall off Berlin Street. Wallace said the artist also targeted numerous downtown businesses, though most of that work has been cleaned up.
For the graffiti found throughout the city, the suspect was charged with six counts of simple trespass, one count of first-degree criminal mischief, eight counts of second-degree criminal mischief, 17 counts of third-degree criminal mischief and one count of damage to railroad property. Bond was set at $25,000 and police said the suspect is awaiting another court date. Wallace said the suspect was already on probation, and that “would probably play into” his sentencing.
Wallace said police are still investigating another trail of graffiti that extends throughout Middletown and into Durham and Middlefield. Stencils of R2D2, an android character from Star Wars, appeared throughout the area this spring. Anyone with information can call Middletown Police.