Aug 12, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The rash of spray-painted graffiti that has been spreading throughout Cazenovia has taken a turn from misdemeanor annoyances to felony criminal mischief after graffiti clean-up on the Lakeland Park Bathhouse was determined to cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
The spray-painting of the four-foot-long word “Loner” on the bathhouse last week was the latest in a string of graffiti incidents that have occurred on sidewalks, mailboxes and sign poles from Lakeland Park up Albany Street all the way to the Tops plaza.
“This is somebody who is in the village — not a passerby,” said Cazenovia Police Chief Michael Hayes. “We’ve recovered evidence that we are processing.”
The graffiti incidents, which started during the summer, typically use skateboarder slang language, the words “loner” and “naff,” and, on some sidewalks on Albany Street, spray-painted messages. The village department of public works has cleaned some of the graffiti as it has occurred, while others remain visible.
Village police have been investigating the graffiti for weeks and have mapped and documented every incident, Hayes said. His officers have recovered evidence, including fingerprints that are currently being run through law enforcement databases, and have leads as to the identity of the perpetrator(s) although he declined to comment on their possible age(s).
The Lakeland Park Bathhouse graffiti, which occurred sometime between late evening Sunday, Aug. 4, and early morning Monday, Aug. 5, is different from the previous incidents not only in the larger size of the graffiti but in the cost of the clean-up. The village DPW had to powerwash the wall, which caused the grout to disintegrate. The cost to re-grout the wall will cost thousands of dollars, Hayes said.
“Based on the cost [of the clean-up], they’re looking at a criminal mischief felony at a minimum,” Hayes said of the charges facing the perpetrator(s). “The laws pertaining to graffiti are not even included in that.”
Under New York state law, criminal mischief that exceeds $1,500 in damage is a Class B felony; such a felony can carry a prison term of up to 25 years. A charge of making graffiti is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and not more than one year in prison, while possession of graffiti instruments is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $500 and not more than three months in prison.
The escalation of the graffiti caused it to be a topic of conversation at the Aug. 8 village board meeting, when Police Commissioner Amy Mann reported on the progress of the investigation. She said the police have recovered fingerprints and footprints at some of the graffiti scenes, and have increased the number of patrols in Lakeland Park. She also said the Cazenovia police are coordinating with the Manlius police, who have had similar graffiti incidents in their village.
“We will not tolerate graffiti in our parks,” Mann said.
Mayor Kurt Wheeler echoed Mann’s sentiments and also said he wanted it known for the record that when the perpetrator(s) are caught the village will seek not only criminal penalties but also fines to reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of all graffiti clean-up.
“This is not something we take lightly. We work very hard to keep our village attractive for residents and visitors, and when people recklessly damage public property we take that very seriously,” Wheeler said.
Hayes said he is confident the perpetrator(s) will be caught within the next two or three weeks.
“This will sound cliché, but if someone wants to come up and be honest about what they’ve done it will be a whole lot easier [on them] than if we have to continue our investigation and spend more money until we catch them,” Hayes said. “Our patrols are hyper-vigilant on this. I’ve told our officers I do not want to see a repeat of this. One way or another, these guys will get caught.”
Hayes asks community members who see anything relating to the graffiti crimes to call the village police immediately, even anonymously, at 655-3276.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.