Officials work to catch graffiti vandals

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s harmless right? A little spray paint by the side of the road is art to some, but others call it tagging. The state calls it half of a million dollars worth of damage as they spend thousands of hours every year cleaning up the vandalism.

Kevin Nursick with the Department of Transportation says it is not art, but rather a thorn in their side to clean up. The clean up takes all kinds of equipment and people.

“Lift equipment, snooper trucks, basically bucket trucks and that puts our staff at risk as well. So not only are we taking lanes, there’s obviously congestion. There’s a cost that goes along with that,” he said.

The state monitors traffic cameras looking for active taggers, but as soon as one is arrested, another one is there to take his or her place. Nursick says it is a constant battle.

“It’s just constantly always happening. It’s an endless cycle. Where the vandalism takes place, we go out and clean it up and inevitably it ends up coming back,” he said.

Trooper Kelly Grant of the Connecticut State Police says it’s become such a problem that lawmakers have changed the statute from vandalism where you’d get a simple ticket to criminal mischief, which means time behind bars.

“The statute is criminal mischief. You can be arrested for it and it’s up to six months in prison for the type of vandalism we are talking about, graffiti,” she said.

The courts will also order you to pay for the cleanup, which can be tens of thousands of dollars as well as jail time. Because it is such a problem, State Police are asking you to keep an eye out for anyone actively spray painting. Please note the location and call them as soon as it is safe to pick up the phone and dial 911, that way they might catch them in the act.