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Just Bored Teens? Forget It, Graffiti Vandals Are Criminals

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Cubism is an art form. A graffiti tag smeared across a mailbox isn’t. It’s a crime. That was the point Captain Vincent Stella, the commanding officer of the 61st Precinct, drove home Wednesday during the 61st Precinct Community Council’s April meeting. During the open forum of the meeting, one meeting attendee ruffled some feathers by speculating that graffiti vandals are really bored teenagers in dire need of after-school programs and recreational centers where they could express their “art.” Stella disagreed, saying that, for the most part, graffiti vandals aren’t kids looking for help. In fact, he said, most of them aren’t even kids. Rather, they’re adults who drive their own cars from place to place, looking for a spot to put their tag, he explained. “The belief that these kids are poor and are just trying to express themselves is wrong,” he said. “They’re not crying for help, they’re vandals.” Today’s graffiti vandals are usually middle- to upper-class young men, said Stella. While some are in their teens, most are in their late teens and early 20s, officials said. “The young teens we catch may need some direction,” Stella said. “But the older kids don’t need recreational centers, they need 100 hours of clean-ups as part of their community service.” Members of the Citywide Vandal’s Task Force have had some great success in tracking down and arresting the area’s most productive graffiti vandals – including “Jruish,” a notorious tagger who turned out to be the step-son of a former City Councilman from Coney Island, who had been leaving his mark in the 60th Precinct, the 61st Precinct and the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge. In the interim, the everyday patrolman is responsible for trying to dissuade the next generation of graffiti vandals from continuing. Three young children were properly “dissuaded” on April 6 when they were caught trying to scrawl their graffiti tags at the corner of Knapp Street and Avenue X. Police caught the three suspects, two 13-year-olds and a 10-year-old, as they were trying to mar up the rear of a building near the corner. One of the children came from Plumb 1st Street, officials said. The other two lived on Avenue W and Avenue Y, respectively. All three were taken to the precinct where their parents were called, said officials. Their names weren’t released because of their ages. Cops from the 61st Precinct said that this was one of the many graffiti arrests they make each month. As the ongoing war against graffiti vandals continues, cops are offering up to $500 in reward money for information on anyone who commits graffiti vandalism. The hefty reward is part of the city’s new push to rid New York of graffiti vandals. Graffiti is one of the leading quality-of-life complaints brought to police, officials said. Cleaning up graffiti is essential to the plan, to show that the community is no longer going to tolerate marred and tagged-up street corners. Officials said that there is a belief that if a community will tolerate graffiti, they will tolerate other criminal activities, such as drug dealing and prostitution. Anyone with information about graffiti vandalism is urged to contact either 311 or 911.

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